Yesterday the Brooklyn Nets completed a trade for perennial MVP Candidate, one of the most talented scorers in NBA history, and one of the most polarizing superstars in the league, all in one. All it cost them was their past and future.
By rights, I should probably be elated. I mean they acquired easily a top ten player in the league, pair him with the second best player of this era in Kevin Durant, and another All NBA Team level talent in Kyrie Irving. Yet, ever since the rumors ramped up yesterday, I’ve been in utter agony.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two of the most mercurial stars in the league. Each with contentious histories with their former teams, the press, and even fans. Adding in another enigmatic star, with a history of driving superstar teammates away is distressing.
On top of that, Harden’s play style isn’t exactly fun to watch.
Still, talent tends to figure it out in the NBA, and unlike previous failed super teams, including a previous iteration of the Nets who mortgaged their future for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, this team isn’t relying on anyone deep in their thirties for results.
Yet, I can’t drive away this deep and very real sadness, that has absolutely nothing to do with the X’s and O’s or lost draft capital.
Being a sports fan is a weird thing. You willingly put yourself through real stress, real emotional turmoil, for fleeting moments of hope. All over people you’d be lucky to spent thirty perfunctory seconds with.
It doesn’t make a ton of sense, and yet millions, if not hundreds of millions, of us torture ourselves with it incessantly.
The Nets of the post Garnett/Pierce trade apocalypse morphed from a torturous collection of discarded nobodies, to a proud collection of hardworking, ever improving somebodies. A team always looking to prove itself, always fighting, always having fun.
Two of the leaders of this rejuvenation, and likely the two most beloved by Nets’ fans were Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
LeVert and Allen were acquired late in drafts the Nets should’ve been drafting early, and vastly outperformed their expectations, emerging as crucial pieces on playoff teams.
What’s more, they shared a connection, a frenetic play style that allowed them to connect time and again for any number of alley-oops, dunks, and fun plays.
Trading them, the culture, and the fun they represent, for a player who sabotaged his team all year, disrespected the league’s COVID-19 protocols, and who has a history of vastly underperforming in the playoffs…
The fact that the duo were separated, traded to different teams, bound to miss the playoffs, feels like even more of a betrayal. Without LeVert and Allen, there are no KD and Kyrie, and there is certainly no James Harden.
Trading them may bring the Nets more wins, it may even bring them a championship (the only thing that can redeem this move), but it has done so at the price of making my favorite team wholly unlikeable.
Goodbye Caris and Jarrett, thanks for everything. Hello James Harden, please don’t fuck this up.