By Andrew Scarpaci, Sports Editor
The Brooklyn Nets have made it to the 2022 NBA playoffs. After a chaotic regular season filled with COVID-19, injuries and off the court drama, the Nets have wiped their slate clean, and now have a shot to compete for their first NBA Championship.
After starting their season projected to be one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, they fell short of expectations, finishing the regular season as the #7 seed with a record of 44-38.
On Tuesday, April 12, the Nets defeated the #8 seed Cleveland Cavaliers at home in the play-in round 115-108. This secured them a spot in the first round, where they currently take on the Boston Celtics in a best of seven series.
The Nets did this with many of their top players missing time throughout the season. Former MVP Kevin Durant missed over a month and half with an MCL sprain. Star Kyrie Irving did not come back until the new year due to his vaccination status, and then was not allowed to play at home until the indoor vaccine mandate was lifted in New York at the end of March. Veteran Lamarcus Aldridge missed time with a hip injury as well. Lastly, 3-point specialist Joe Harris, the longest tenured player on the Nets, went down 14 games in with a season-ending ankle injury. The Nets also had to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak involving seven players during the middle of December.
However, this did not stop Brooklyn from pushing through, as second year Nets Bruce Brown and Nick Claxton stepped up when the team needed them most. The Nets also called upon rookies Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards and Day’ron Sharpe, who all played productive minutes throughout the season. While all of these players were big contributors, it was off-season pickup Patty Mills who shined the brightest, as he had one of the best seasons of his career. Mills played in 81 of the Nets 82 games, and averaged 11.3 points-per-game (PPG), while shooting 40% from behind the arc.
Despite all this, it was the trade the Nets made on Feb. 10 that completely altered their season. After trading for 3-time scoring champion James Harden in early 2021, they would trade him away a little after one calendar year. Harden played well during his time in Brooklyn, but it ultimately didn’t work out for both sides, which led to the end of his tenure as a Net.
In exchange for James Harden, the Nets received Andre Drummond, Seth Curry, and Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons has yet to play a game due to a back injury. However, Drummond is a consistent player in the paint, and helps provide quality minutes at the center position. Curry has also played a pivotal role, and gives the Nets some options as they now rotate Irving, Mills and Curry in the guard spots, allowing one of them to rest while still having a great combo on the court.
Junior broadcasting major Ryan Boettcher felt the intensity of everything that went on this season.
“When I watched the regular season I can define the games to one phrase—‘Ramping up’, with the amount of injuries and Covid situations the season was stressful.”
Boettcher was initially surprised at the blockbuster trade involving James Harden, but is satisfied with the way it has worked out since.
“I was at first disappointed because Harden didn’t even give the Nets a chance to get back to full strength. Harden was understandably frustrated, but Kyrie was going to be back soon and Durant was rehabbing,” he said. “Post trade it has been ok, as Bruce brown has broken out a bit and the Nets finally got another complementary shooter in Seth Curry.”
Boettcher was excited when he found out Kyrie Irving would be able to play again, feeling it was about time.
“At first I understood the vaccine mandate and the reason why Irving was unable to play, but after the vaccination requirements were lifted to attend a game it was like pulling teeth to get Kyrie back,” he said. “Mayor Adams was trying to keep his good PR up and didn’t listen to the science.”
Boettcher is looking forward to cheering on his team, but feels there is a strong possibility of them being out matched whoever they play.
“Right now I’m just happy they’re in the playoffs. The Celtics are a really good team and I’ll root for the Nets to win a championship, but I won’t be surprised if they lose in the first round,” he said.
Boettcher feels there are many holes and weaknesses in the team on both sides of the ball.
“The overall lack of detail and attention on the defensive end is disgusting,” he said. “Also the Nets don’t have enough motion in their offense, as Irving and Durant are being put in Isolation plays too often”.