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Nets, Kenny Atkinson, Kyrie Irving

How Kyrie Irving and the Nets can salvage a rough start to the season

The Brooklyn Nets are struggling to begin the 2019-20 NBA season. However, Kyrie Irving is showing why he was in such high demand this offseason. But still, what seems to be hurting the Nets’ chances of winning? And can they right the ship before it’s too late?

One of the main issues for the Nets is health. Last season with D’Angelo Russell leading the charge, the Nets were thin at certain positions. What that allowed was for players to get consistent minutes. This year, players are healthy and Kenny Atkinson must find balance.

In Facebook chats and across other social media platforms, Nets’ fans have asked; What was the point of signing DeAndre Jordan if he’s only going to play 22 minutes per game? Should they pair him more with Irving and Caris Levert and let him control the paint as he has for his career?

That sounds like a fair assessment. However, Jordan is no longer the defensive stud he once was. Advanced Stats will show that the Nets are actually worse defensively with Jordan on the floor and Allen on the bench. However, according to those same stats, the Nets are giving up fewer rebounds with Jordan on the floor than when Allen is on the floor. This is a toss-up when it comes to their bigs.

Should the Nets try a pairing of Allen and Jordan together? Negative, that pairing, while limited has done little to solve their issues. Getting the younger guys quality minutes is important but so is winning. The Nets are in a division where four teams advanced to the playoffs and one walked away as NBA champions. There is no room for error.

But what can be done?

To be fair, not much. The playoffs are a lock. It’s too much talent on this team and the Eastern Conference is not as strong as the West. The Nets’ offseason offered excitement but the majority of that was toward the future pairing of Irving and Kevin Durant. KD will miss this year so the Nets should be able to lean on Irving for guidance. But what if they can’t?

Think about that for a moment. When has Kyrie Irving led anything? While the lone star for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving was not able to do what’s expected of him in Brooklyn. While with the Boston Celtics, they advanced to the ECF, however, Irving was injured during that run.

While dropping 50 points is good, it still came in a loss. What made Brooklyn so exciting to watch last season, was that they played team ball. The Nets, if not careful could fall victim to star-chasing. Even worse, the team could become cameramen and just stand there watching Irving dribble down the clock and hoist an off-balance shot.

In seven games so far, Irving is leading the team in scoring (31.7) and assists (7.7) while hitting .472 percent of his shots. What has ailed the Nets so far this season has been their lack of devotion on the defensive end. The Nets are 3rd in scoring but 25th in team defense.

What has also hurt the Nets has been their level of competition. Most teams they have played have had multiple high-volume scorers. This is something the Nets lack. They have players who can put the ball in the basket but Irving has played a lot of “hero ball” this season.

The Brooklyn Nets are a top-five team in three-point shooting but find themselves at the bottom in turnovers and personal fouls. These are the mistakes that have plagued them down the stretch in losses. The Nets are in close games. Each of their losses has been by no more than 10 points with two coming in overtime. It’s just simple things that Atkinson must change.

Irving was brought in to be the closer but his teammates have been doing a lot of standing around hoping Irving will bail them out. This has been his motto since leaving Cleveland. Even with no Durant to help take the pressure off, Irving has to learn to trust those around him.

With five players averaging 10 points or more on the season, there is no excuse why the Nets are struggling. It comes down to chemistry and a coach learning to deal with a star who’s used to doing things his way. Now, is it fair for Irving to shoulder all the blame? No, but he must take responsibility for the teams’ issues. A defense ranked near the bottom with him leading the point of attack and Jordan and Allen in the paint should be much better than what they are.

The good news is, it’s still early and it can be turned around. Irving will need to cut down on his shot attempts (22.7) and Atkinson must get Jordan to be active on the defensive end of the floor. He was once one of the best rebounders and defenders in the NBA and those are areas where the Brooklyn Nets have struggled. All is not lost, yet.