The Brooklyn Nets still have to outfox the Philadelphia 76ers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference in the season’s final weeks, but they can take the first concrete step in their postseason journey on Tuesday night against the Toronto Raptors.
Despite piecing together an “unfair” Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, very little has followed a linear path for Brooklyn, including that entire trio operating together at the same time.
The Nets have faced their fair share of (don’t laugh) adversity in 2020-21, but have still managed to dominate more often than they’ve deceived, and the confetti for a postseason clinch could fall as soon as Tuesday.
Brooklyn’s gone all in for both the short and long term this season, and it would be especially joyful if they beat the last Eastern Conference team to throw their chips to the center in order to secure their spot in the tournament.
After all, Toronto proved that any team can make the difficult decision to import a short-term superstar like Kawhi Leonard to take them over the top, but it’s far harder to create a culture that makes that title-winning destination into a long-term pipeline for the league’s superstars.
The Brooklyn Nets can clinch a playoff spot vs the Toronto Raptors Tuesday.
If you told a Brooklyn fan they could have the 2020-21 NBA championship in their possession, but the whole dream would clatter down around them in the immediate aftermath, this title-starved region would likely sign up for that deal. So would any NBA fan who has lived their entire life without witnessing a title, even if they don’t want to admit it.
The Raptors didn’t make a fatal miscalculation bringing Leonard in for his walk year. In fact, it was among the most successful trades in NBA history, and he earned them an elusive piece of hardware they never would’ve obtained otherwise (also thanks to some unfortunate Golden State Warrior injuries).
The Nets, though, did not have to face the same decision at any point in their recent ascent. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined forces because they intended to coexist in one place for a long time, and they chose Brooklyn because of the organizational stability, the big city hype, and the ability to have personnel input. That input led to James Harden joining the roster — also for a long time, not just a good time — a year later.
If the Nets finish their stated task and win a championship, who wouldn’t want to join them next year and the season after that? We’ve already seen it repeatedly this season in the form of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge’s arrival.
If Irving, Durant and Harden leave the city victorious, which free agent superstar wouldn’t want to take the torch and carve out their own legacy in New York?
The Raptors have nothing to be ashamed of regarding the way they secured the franchise’s only championship, but it would be fitting for the Nets to defeat them Tuesday as their first unofficial postseason stepping stone, considering Brooklyn elevated their formula and perfected it.