The Brooklyn Nets inexplicably wilted against the Philadelphia 76ers that didn’t have three of their best players in the lineup. Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey were sidelined due to their respective injuries, but the short-handed 76ers still stunned the heavily-favored Nets.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith minced no words in castigating the Nets’ awful display in Ben Simmons' first game in Philly since his controversial exit:
“It was the worst loss by an NBA team this season. It was one of the most disgraceful performances I’ve ever seen from any NBA team. The Brooklyn Nets should be ashamed of themselves.
“There is no Joel Embiid, there is no James Harden, there is no Tyrese Maxey. And y’all get beat by that team, get smoked by the way that you did? It was a disgraceful performance, incredibly embarrassing. It was a character performance!”
Last night’s game between the Nets and the 76ers was arguably the most-anticipated game of the season. Wells Fargo Center was going to play host to Philly’s prodigal son Ben Simmons, who played for the first time against his former team.
With all the lights pointed at the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Simmons miserably failed. KD took only 14 shots despite his team struggling and finished with 20 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. It was probably his worst game of the season.
Kyrie Irving didn’t do too well, either. The mercurial point guard played 31 minutes and tallied 23 points, two rebounds and two assists.
While Durant and Irving were on the floor at the same time, the Brooklyn Nets were outscored by the ragtag Philadelphia 76ers by 19 points.
Given the circumstances, it was, ironically enough, Ben Simmons who shone. He had 11 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and three blocks. More importantly, he showed the kind of swag and confidence that was shockingly missing in Durant and Irving.
Charles Barkley, who covered the game on TNT, came to the same conclusion as Stephen A. Smith:
(Starts at the 5:47 mark)
“They just have zero mental toughness, zero! They don’t hold each other accountable, everybody kind of does their own thing. … If I’m KD and Kyrie, I’m like, ‘We’re the two best players in the building. They’re missing their three best players. Let’s protect Ben and send them a message.’ And it was totally opposite.”
The Brooklyn Nets could shake up the roster to salvage their season
Eighteen games does not make the entire season, but the Brooklyn Nets could seriously consider shaking up the roster. They’ve already fired Steve Nash and elevated Jacque Vaughn as head coach, but the team is seemingly regressing again.
Adrian Wojnarowski, who was on "Get Up" with Stephen A. Smith, tossed in his thoughts about the Nets’ alarming situation:
“When you’re trying to look at this lineup and this team, what you’re asking yourself is, ‘Is this worth keeping together? Is this a group that’s worth going the distance with that can compete for an Eastern Conference championship, that could compete to get to the second round of the playoffs?’
"I think what’s most troubling for the Nets is if an opponent is willing to play harder and longer than they are, they’ll probably beat them."
The NBA’s trade deadline is still three months away. If the Nets continue to struggle even against depleted teams, general manager Sean Marks could make significant changes to the roster.