Kyrie Doesn’t Care About “Any External Negativity Or Praise,” Nets Are The Hottest Team In The NBA; Time To Believe In Brooklyn Again?

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Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets have won nine straight games and 14 of their past 16. They are the hottest team in the NBA, third in the East and two games back of first. Is it time to start believing in the Nets again as title contenders?

The run has coincided with the team getting healthy and Irving returning to the lineup after an eight-game suspension for promoting a movie with anti-Semitic messaging. However, Irving says he isn’t concerned with what people are saying externally about the team and his commitment is to just playing basketball.

“Any external negativity or praise, I really don’t care about it. I think I’m just focused on being the best version of me and just letting the results play out based on how we trust one another as a group,” said Irving.

It’s playing out really well for a team that had many, including this writer, saying the team should cut their losses and blow the whole thing up and rebuild.

Since Jacque Vaughn took over as head coach for the fired Steve Nash, the Nets are 20-7. Among the league’s worst defenses under Nash’s tenure, Vaughn has them up to 13th in aDRTG. Add in the third-ranked offense and you have a recipe for success.

“I am a simple person,” Vaughn said after Monday’s game. “And really try to keep things simple. And so really stressed what was going to be beneficial for our team. And whether that was the amount of time we spent in shootarounds, the amount of time we shaved [off] and kept our guys fresh, in order to give an extreme amount of effort when we play. And that was kind of the goal, we created a little momentum that way.
“We stripped our playbook down a little bit, we are simple in what we do … have our guys play extremely free of mind. I think there’s something important in that if you’re going to ask your guys to play hard.”

Simplifying the playbook, and playing hard matters. But the reality is, this team is only focusing on basketball. There are no distractions or conversations around this team other than hoops, and that has to have some impact.

“Everybody has a platform,” Kevin Durant said. “So there’s so many voices speaking on what we do inside our locker room, when they don’t really have an idea, I think that’s the noise that you hear. But from us we’ve always been about the game. We struggled early on — I’m not saying we didn’t struggle — but we always were focused on playing basketball. I think that other people were trying to look for stuff to put on our team, label our team, whatever. I know the Kyrie stuff may be what you’re talking about, but I feel like we’ve always been about the game, always.”

Maybe Durant is right and the team was always about hoops. But there is a noticeable difference around the team. Guys are playing with joy and look to be enjoying one another. Winning cures all and can mask a lot of things. But right now the Nets are for real.

Their recent wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers suggest as much.

But this is the NBA, and it’s a long season. When the next storm comes, as it aways does, how will the team respond?

We can’t say for certain. But this squad looks more capable than the one that started the season 2-5.