CHARLOTTE – On paper, the networks created a four-year window on disputes when they landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. In reality? The star duo's injuries in the first year and contracts signed before the fourth year can halve this window. Sean Marks, general manager of Nets, also indicated this.
This season should have given the Nets the opportunity to build chemistry and lay some groundwork before Durant can return from Achilles surgery next season. But Irving's upcoming shoulder surgery at the end of the season took that away.
It will be more difficult to accurately assess this season, build the squad in the off-season and get out of the gate quickly next season.
"It's the big deal," Kenny Atkinson admitted. "They wanted some time to sort things out, work on our continuity and obviously on the chemistry of the team and how we're going to use them [Irving], That is the disappointing part. We will not have this opportunity.
"We have to start again next season and find out quickly. But that's the disappointing part."
There were always health question marks. The nets knew they would have to wait for Durant while he was rehabilitating a broken Achilles. But to miss Caris LeVert two months after thumb surgery and to limit Irving to just 20 games all season goes beyond what even the most pessimistic fan would have expected.
"I would be lying if I said I wish all of our boys weren't healthy all the time. It was kind of a roller coaster year," said Marks. "We also had Caris outside. So we had several people who had these strange, unforeseen injuries. "
Unforeseen injuries are the story of Irving's enticing career. By the time his homecoming campaign ends in Brooklyn, he will have missed 194 regular season games in his nine-year NBA career, a little over 60 out of 82 games per season on average. In his lonely college season at Duke, he suffered a toe injury and missed 26 of 37 games.
Irving made waves by declaring that even after Durant's expected return next season, the networks are still a league or two away from the competition. But for the first time since Mark's takeover, this roster is designed for stability rather than flexibility.
Whatever Atkinson rates during the season and whatever Marks creates after it gets more difficult without having a clear idea of what exactly a strong Nets team would look like.
"We always evaluate everything and if you don't have a large sample size this will certainly make things a little more difficult," said Marks. "That's what we're here for. That's exactly what analytics does, that's what scouts do, that's what our front office group does.
"Here, too, we are very confident that we are on schedule and aim to bring out a competitor." That was the goal all along. "
Obviously, the nets have never seen their optimal placement with Durant. But they also had only 109 minutes together with a possible line-up of Irving, LeVert, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen on the pitch all season.
"It's difficult because people tried to set their pace from the start," Harris said. “Although (Irving) started the season with us, he missed the pre-season, he missed a lot of exercises.
"It was not that everyone was together and we could have this cohesion. It was not that everyone was together and we could have all this cohesion. We had a lot of people on the go and we tried to put people together. It was difficult from the start. "
The 4-2 mark on this grid is synonymous with the top marks of the networks, along with a quintet with Spencer Dinwiddie instead of Irving. This is a miserably small sample from which you can try to draw conclusions.
"I don't know if there is enough, especially if you throw Kevin in the mix," said Atkinson. "It will be a different structure, a different chemistry, different rotations."