The Nets will begin a season of high expectations without Kyrie Irving Tuesday night as they open in Milwaukee. Here are three bold predictions and five games to watch as the 2021-22 NBA season tips off.
Three bold predictions
1. KD wins MVP.
Luka Doncic is the pick in Vegas, but the league GMs tabbed Kevin Durant as the front-runner. And without Kyrie Irving’s production, Durant will be relied upon even more.
2. The Irving situation gets sorted.
That could be because the city’s mandates change (they weren’t in place two months ago), Irving relents (which seems unlikely) or the Nets orchestrate a trade. ESPN reported the 76ers haven’t called to offer Ben Simmons, but could an asset-rich team such as the Thunder take a chance on Irving?
3. Brooklyn stumbles out of the gate.
Yes, the Nets enjoy an exceptionally long six-game homestand from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3. But between losing Irving and integrating 10 new players, it will take time to get up to speed. “It’d be nice to start the season on fire,” coach Steve Nash said. “But it’s really about are we getting better.”
Five games to watch
Tuesday at Milwaukee: The league’s schedule-makers don’t make anybody wait long. The Nets gave the champion Bucks their toughest playoff test, and many feel the Nets would’ve won the conference semifinal series if they hadn’t sustained injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Dec. 25 at Lakers: They are the heavy favorites in their respective conferences. The schedule-makers’ Christmas present is a potential Finals preview and a juicy Kevin Durant-LeBron James matchup.
Jan. 29 at Golden State: Durant returns to the Bay Area for the first time with fans in attendance (last season’s Feb. 13 visit was played in an empty building due to the pandemic) and will get honored at Chase Center.
March 10 at Philadelphia: With all the attention on the favored Nets and reigning-champion Bucks, it shouldn’t go overlooked that the 76ers earned the best record in the East last season. This late-season tilt at Wells Fargo Center could have major seeding ramifications.
April 6 at Knicks: The Nets and Knicks were in the playoffs in the same year in 2021 for the first time since 2013. This late-season clash at the Garden will just whet the appetite for postseason hoops.