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Whitlock: Blame Bill de Blasio, not Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant, for Brooklyn’s epic failure

Op-ed
G Fiume / Contributor, Jason Mendez / Contributor | Getty Images

At some point this week, possibly tonight at the Barclay Center, the Boston Celtics will eliminate Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Steve Nash, and the Brooklyn Nets from the NBA playoffs.

The Nets, who started the season with former MVP James Harden on the roster, were a preseason favorite to win it all. Pundits thought Harden, Irving, and Durant could, at least for one season, duplicate the mini-dynasty of Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson achieved at Golden State.

Instead, these Nets will go down as the biggest flop in NBA history. They finished the regular season just six games above .500, backed into the playoffs with a play-in victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and are down 0-3 to the Celtics in a first-round playoff series.

Yes, I believe these Nets are more disappointing than the LeBron James-Russell Westbrook-Anthony Davis Los Angeles Lakers team that couldn’t even qualify for the play-in tournament. The Lakers team was overhyped, a victim of foolish expectations. The addition of Westbrook and his cancerous attitude to any roster kills any legitimate shot at contending at a high level. I didn’t find this year’s Lakers team disappointing. Their failure was inevitable.

The Nets could have been great. One man ruined the Brooklyn Nets: Bill de Blasio. The former lunatic mayor of New York City destroyed the Nets with his insane vaccine mandate for New Yorkers.

The autopsies on the Brooklyn Nets are already being filed. The causes of death center on Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated, Durant’s poor performance against the Celtics, Nash’s inexperienced coaching, and Simmons’ refusal to even suit up.

Bill de Blasio is being allowed to escape blame.

The Nets are dying because of their lack of continuity. Throughout the entire season, the team was in a constant state of flux. Irving couldn’t play in home games because of de Blasio’s stupid mandate. Meanwhile, unvaccinated players on opposing teams could visit New York and play. The rule never made an ounce of sense. It was authoritarian, illogical, and grossly unfair. It harmed people. It hurt Irving and the Nets.

Irving’s status played a role in Harden demanding a trade. Brooklyn’s Big Three of Harden, Irving, and Durant – conceived in January 2021 – played 16 games together before dissolving in February 2022. The Nets acquired Simmons in exchange for Harden. Nearly three months later, Simmons has yet to take the court for Brooklyn.

It’s difficult for me to blame Steve Nash for Brooklyn’s failure. He’s never had a chance to coach his full team. Durant and Irving are still learning to play with each other. Simmons is afraid of failure, a deadly sin for a professional athlete. He would never have been a member of the Nets if de Blasio had acted appropriately.

Establishment media will not make this point, because it no longer speaks truth to power. It protects power.

In the wake of the Nets' failure, there’s a major obvious takeaway for professional athletes: Avoid New York and other cities/states controlled by politicians who believe government is more important than the individual.

Irving and Durant need to escape from New York. They should watch the 1981 movie “Escape from New York” for some inspiration.

The United States is at war with China and the Soviet Union and decides to turn crime-ridden New York City into a maximum-security prison. It’s quite similar to modern America. We’re in a cold war with China and Russia, and New York is crime-ridden and run by prison wardens masquerading as politicians.

Back to the movie. Kurt Russell’s character, “Snake,” is hired to extract the president from Manhattan. It’s a thrilling movie. It ends with the president half-heartedly acknowledging the people who sacrificed their lives to save him and Snake embarrassing the president. The point is smart people should avoid placing their faith in the government.

Kyrie had every right to decline taking the vaccine. He’s young and in ideal health. Only an authoritarian would pass a law punishing citizens for their individual medical decisions.

The way New York City and the state of New York handled COVID should alarm its citizens, especially when you compare it to Florida. Had Durant, Harden, and Irving joined forces on the Miami Heat or Orlando Magic, they would have avoided New York’s vaccine insanity and high taxes. They would be a title contender.

Creative people and innovators are fleeing New York and California for Texas and Florida. Elon Musk and Tesla abandoned California for Texas. Joe Rogan escaped California. Led by New York City, the state of New York has suffered record population loss since the start of the COVID pandemic. In a 12-month period, 3.5 percent of NYC’s population migrated elsewhere.

With the uncertainty of COVID and other viruses, why would any elite athlete choose to play in New York? The city’s leaders have learned nothing from the pandemic. Eric Adams, the new mayor, is capable of repeating every mistake de Blasio made. Why wouldn’t he? He won’t be held accountable by corporate media.

Bill de Blasio enacted a nonsensical policy, and all season we listened to sports pundits berate Irving for refusing to follow it. Irving stood on moral principle and sacrificed a season. He’s the closet thing we’ve ever seen to Muhammad Ali. Too bad the media didn’t rally to support him.

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