- The Brooklyn Nets are struggling despite Kyrie Irving’s big numbers.
- The Nets knew they were sacrificing by bringing him in, but he’s changed how they play.
- With every rumor of discontent, it’s more appropriate to wonder if Irving is the cause of Brooklyn’s labors.
Even before the Brooklyn Nets were among the NBA’s most disappointing teams a month into the regular season, coach Kenny Atkinson knew exactly what challenges lay ahead.
Nets Find Kyrie Irving Is More Trouble Than He’s Worth
Brooklyn was the league’s best story last season, a group of also-rans that relied on the culture and chemistry the organization had built over the previous two years to win 42 games and put up a fight against the heavily-favored Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs.
The Nets parlayed those accomplishments into one of the biggest free-agency coups ever last summer, signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
With the promise of contention that accompanies multiple superstars, though, was an inevitable sacrifice of the ethos that ushered in Brooklyn’s stunning turnaround.
“No one gave us an award for mastering the culture code,” Atkinson told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in October. “We’re still learning.”
And as they struggle to live up to heightened expectations in the season’s early going, the Nets are also learning that Irving – without the injured Durant by his side, at least – may be more trouble than he’s worth.
Irving’s on-Court Impact
Irving’s individual numbers, as always, are stellar. He’s averaging 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game, all career-highs.
Brooklyn, 6-8, has won two of three with Irving sidelined by a sore shoulder, but it’s not like the numbers say he’s been a destructive force when available. The Nets’ offensive rating drops a whopping 10 points without him in the game,…