Discovering identity

Discovering identity

For a while there, it looked as if the Nets would suffer a second straight loss in as many games. Considering their status as overwhelming favorites to claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy, an inauspicious start to the season was the last thing they expected. And it wasn’t as if they lost a nail-biter in their inaugural; they were blown off the court by the resplendent Bucks, who just so happened to be their tormentors in the 2021 Playoffs en route to the championship. Far from being a confidence builder, their effort showed how much they still needed to do to justify casting moist eyes on the hardware.

To be sure, the Nets didn’t project the likelihood of navigating their 2021-22 campaign without a third member of their Big Three. Kyrie Irving may be last in their pecking order of superstars, but his singular skill set would have given them insurance even against top contenders, the Bucks included. That said, the sheer talents of Kevin Durant and James Harden appear to be more than enough for the black and white to take the measure of the opposition. It’s why they retained their top spot in sports books all the same.

That said, the Nets found themselves playing catch-up to the handicapped Sixers from the get-go. Even with All-Stars Ben Simmons decommissioned and Joel Embiid hobbled by an injury, they seemed hard-pressed to keep up. They repeatedly faced double-digit deficits; every time they looked to make headway, they were pushed back anew by the determined hosts. Until crunch time, that is, when their vaunted depth enabled them to catch up and finally take the lead. If nothing else, the 16-1 run they forged en route, with Durant playing a starring role and just-unretired LaMarcus Aldridge backstopping him, they showed all and sundry their undeniable strength.

Considering that the Nets will be facing their next six foes at the Barclays Center, they have a grand opportunity to stamp their class across the competitiveness spectrum. Will they go on a winning streak and gain momentum? Or will their schedule have ebbs and flows? Whatever happens, it’s clear that they’re still discovering their identity while, hopefully, improving enough in the process to ultimately prove true to their potential.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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