There was a discussion taking place on ESPN’s national radio network over the weekend on what could be anticipated from the 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets, when presumably Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will be a tandem leading the way.
Apparently, this was based on recent Irving comments in which he said the Nets’ management had to do more to improve next season’s roster -- that Kyrie and Durant wouldn't be enough. This seemed to be a new level of chutzpah from Irving, since he had yet to play a Nets game with Durant, and also had played in only 20 games in this first season for the Nets.
One of the radio hosts assured us that Kyrie is a “great guy,’’ one example being the camaraderie he shows when playing video games.
There was some thought during the conversation that perhaps the younger Nets, battling to claim a playoff spot in the East as Irving sits, might resent the “not enough’’ comments from Kyrie. In the end, the co-hosts seemed to side with Kyrie’s warning to Nets’ management to be aggressive again this offseason, for this reason:
Fifty wins would not be enough for a Nets’ team with Irving and Durant in 2021-22. Anything less than a trip to the Eastern Conference finals would be a failure.
So here it is: The NBA and the manner in which it is discussed on television, radio and podcasts finally has succeeded in driving me nuts.
It’s not about trying to win tonight’s game. It’s about interpersonal relationships. It’s about players with $150 million contracts being placed in the role of martyrs, because ownership has not surrounded them with players capable of allowing that alleged superstar to win a “championship.’’
The Milwaukee Bucks are 49-8 and yet you can hear frequent debates as to whether the front office has done enough to give Giannis Antetokounmpo the championship that might convince him to stay in the Midwest, to not seek the glamour of the East or West Coast.
Of course, winning a championship was not enough to prevent Kawhi Leonard from leaving Toronto – a great international city – for Los Angeles. The Raptors are an amazing 42-15 without him, compared to 38-19 for Kawhi’s Clippers, yet all you will hear in these hardcore NBA discussions is, “Fine, but Toronto won’t repeat without Kawhi.’’
Which eventually will lead to this discussion: If Pascal Siakam doesn’t get more help from the Raptors’ front office, will he demand out of Toronto? The pundits won't rest until they can make Siakam unhappy being a superstar on a team that's a long-shot to win a title.
Meantime, the very exciting NBA news in Minnesota is that not only did the Timberwolves succeed in unloading Andrew Wiggins, but they were able to pair Karl-Anthony Towns with his very best friend, D’Angelo Russell, in the trade.
OK, Russell might be 1B to Devin Booker’s 1A on KAT’s official bestie-in-the-NBA list, but that friendship is being pictured as much more important to a Woofies’ rose-colored future than the fact neither of these pals plays defense.
I mean, KAT’s already beyond two-thirds of the way through Year One of his five-year, $158.3 million contract, so the Wolves were obligated to address the vague reports of his “unhappiness in Minnesota’’ that surfaced in late December.
He’s currently dealing with his second significant injury and has played 35 games and missed 21 games this season. This after he didn't miss a game through his first 3 1/2 seasons in the NBA.
Two years after winning 46 games, reaching the playoffs and having 17 regular-season sellouts in Target Center, the Wolves are last in the league in attendance, 6-32 dating to Dec. 1, 1-18 dating to Jan. 11, and are in full tank mode, trying to tumble past Golden State to claim the top spot in the NBA’s Ping Pong ball standings.
So what? KAT’s got a friend, and he can just call out D’Angelo’s name, and he’ll come running, oh yeah baby -- and in NBA 2020, that's the basis for the fans of Timberwolves Phone Booth to be optimistic.