The Brooklyn Nets are imploding off the back of Kyrie Irving’s “hurtful” social media post and his belated apology, yet it appears Ben Simmons is also on the nose with the team as well.
The Nets are in a state of peril on and off the court, with the club starting the season 2-6 and Irving now suspended for 5 games. With Simmons now out for at least their next two games, there’s growing noise that star Kevin Durant may want out.
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Simmons already missed Wednesday’s [AEDT] game against the Bulls, and won’t travel to Washington or Charlotte with the team as he deals with soreness and swelling in his left knee.
Since coming to Brooklyn in a deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia last February, Simmons has played just six games, and his presence on the court has not inspired confidence in his new teammates.
A back injury kept him from playing for the Nets last season, and he did not play at all while with the Sixers, citing mental health amid a holdout following his relationship with the franchise deteriorating.
Speaking on ESPN’s ‘NBA Today’, insider Adrian Wojnarowski said there was already a sense of disappointment inside the Nets organization with how Simmons had looked before the injury.
“Ben Simmons has been a source of frustration for Kevin Durant, for others on the Nets so far, because now he is unable to stay on the floor with a knee injury but prior to that, he has shown that he’s a long way away from being back to an impactful player,” Wojnarowski said.
“It’s a big part of the reason why the Nets are at the bottom of the league defensively and none of this really works. This team was built and reconstructed around the idea Simmons would play a significant role for this team, especially on the defensive end , especially rebounding the basketball and certainly facilitating the offense.
“There is no indication Ben Simmons is close to being back to anywhere near the player he once was.”
Meanwhile, Durant said the Nets could have handled this tumultuous week a bit differently — a week in which his coach was fired and teammate Kyrie Irving was suspended for posting a link to an antisemitic work.
Then Durant clarified on Twitter that he doesn’t condone hate speech and “is about spreading love always.”
Durant spoke at the Nets’ shootaround in Washington ahead of this morning’s clash (AEDT) against the Wizards. When asked what he thought of Irving’s recent conduct, which landed the guard a suspension of at least five games, Durant said: “I ain’t here to judge nobody or talk down on nobody for how they feel, their views or anything. I just didn’t like anything that went on.
“I felt like it was all unnecessary. I felt like we could have just kept playing basketball and kept quiet as an organization.”
Within an hour, Durant followed up via a tweet.
“Just wanna clarify the statements I made at shootaround, I see some people are confused,” he said. “I don’t condone hate speech or anti-semetism (sic), I’m about spreading love always. Our game Unites people and I wanna make sure that’s at the forefront.”
Irving did apologise in an Instagram post for not explaining the specific beliefs he agreed and disagreed with when he posted about the documentary.
Nets general manager Sean Marks said that the team has had some dialogue with Irving, but not enough given the circumstances.
“The organization has made multiple attempts to get with Kyrie and his representation and to have them clarify his feelings and put out a sense of remorse for this, and that obviously didn’t happen, and he refused to disavow that until his tweet last night ,” Marks said.
Marks said Irving’s apology was a step, but actions will speak louder than words. He also said the team is not considering releasing Irving at this time.
“There is going to be some remedial steps and measures that have been put in place for him to obviously seek some counseling … from dealing with some anti-hate and some Jewish leaders within our community,” Marks said. “He’s going to have to sit down with them, he’s going to have to sit down with the organization after this, and we’ll evaluate and see if this is the right opportunity to bring him back.”
Irving’s reluctance to apologise came hours before the FBI said it had received credible information about a “broad” threat to synagogues in New Jersey, Irving’s home state.
In Florida on Saturday, the phrase “Kanye is right about the jews” was projected on the outside of one of the end zones at the TIAA Bank Field stadium in Jacksonville during the Florida-Georgia football game — a reference to recent antisemitic comments that the music mogul formerly known as Kanye West has made on social media and in interviews. The incidents come four years after the deadliest attack on American Jews, when 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The Nets also parted ways with coach Steve Nash this week and despite the star tandem of Durant and Irving, the team has a 2-6 record. Durant said the team has the ability to tune out all the turbulence.
“It’s just the way of the NBA now. So many outlets now and their stories hit pretty fast now. That’s where all the chaos is coming from,” he said. “Everybody’s opinions, everybody has an opinion on the situation, we’re hearing it starts nonstop, but once the ball bouncing and we get into practice, none of that stuff really seeps into the gym.”
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