Kristian Winfield: Nets have ‘very high potential’ without Kyrie Irving, says Steve Nash

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

NEW YORK — Nets head coach Steve Nash didn’t give a resounding “yes” when asked if he still likes his team’s odds at winning a championship without Kyrie Irving. But he also didn’t answer “no.”

Of course, saying “no” would burn the goodwill built with players and the front office, all united on the goal of hoisting a championship trophy at season’s end. But the confidence Nash answered the question lacked the same flair he spoke with in the offseason and his word choice left much to be desired for a team that considers anything short of championship a disappointment.

“Yeah, I think we still have a very high potential,” Nash said ahead of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I think we have great characters in our locker room. We have great veterans. We still have a talented group. We lost an incredibly talented player, but we’re still a very talented group, and like I said, veterans, character, and I think we can build something great. Our goal hasn’t changed. It’s just the way there has to be a little bit different.”

Nash isn’t wrong. The Nets still do have a very high potential, buoyed by Kevin Durant and James Harden, a pair of former league MVP winners, the former of which is the league’s current most dominant player.

Without Irving, however, the Nets’ offensive attack misses the head of the snake.

For what it’s worth, Nash said he’s done speaking about his ineligible All-Star guard. He said he did not watch Irving’s late-night Instagram Live, an attempted explanation of his decision-making process against getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If something changes, we’ll talk about it,” Nash said. “But I really want to focus on moving forward and our group and solutions to the challenge ahead of us.”

The challenges are plain. The Nets aren’t as talented as they expected to be. Meanwhile, other legitimate title contenders gathered as many stars as they could in an effort to throw the Nets off their championship path.

After the Nets’ blowout loss to the 76ers, sharpshooter Joe Harris said the offense doesn’t change much without Irving in the rotation. He did concede that missing Irving will increase the load put on Harden and Durant, each of whom missed time due to injuries last season.

“When he’s out, we have guys that are capable of [scoring and creating for others],” Harris said, “but a lot of the lineups that we put around, James and Kev, there’s not a ton of guys that are going to be facilitating and doing that sort of individual, creating individual offense that way. So you certainly miss him a lot, but in terms of the way that we play, and how we want to play, that really stays the same regardless of who’s on the floor.”

That sounds good, unless the losses pile up — with Harden and Durant, the Nets are still a formidable opponent in the Eastern Conference. The first two games of the season will serve as an early barometer: a season-opener in Milwaukee against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, then a trip to Philadelphia against Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers shortly after.

Both of those teams have three legitimate stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday for the Bucks; and Ben Simmons’ return to Philly makes Embiid and Tobias Harris whole.

The Nets are not as tough an out as they were with Irving in tow, and the team will now spend a good chunk of the beginning of the season adjusting to his absence on the fly.

“When you lose an exceptional talent like that, your roster is built in a certain way over the parameters of having three guys,” Nash said. “So everyone has to slide up a spot, so to speak, or more. So we have to win with corporate knowledge, growth from last season, connectivity, team spirit and building those bonds that I think transfer on the court and off.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting