Kyrie Irving did not appear on the injury report for the Brooklyn Nets, but how much longer he wants to play for the team became a major story line Friday afternoon when reports surfaced about the guard seeking a trade.
The Washington Wizards are focused on continuing their recent ascent in the Eastern Conference playoff race when they visit the Nets on Saturday night.
For the third time in 13 months, a star requested a trade out of Brooklyn. James Harden’s request was granted via a deal to the Philadelphia 76ers that netted Ben Simmons. Then, during a turbulent offseason following a four-game sweep by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, Kevin Durant sought a trade before hashing things out with management.
Among the reasons Durant wanted out was the team’s inability to win when he injured his left knee. When he was out from mid-January to early March last season, the Nets lost 16 of 21 games, including a stretch of 11 consecutive defeats. This season, Brooklyn is 4-7 amid the star forward’s ongoing absence due to a right knee injury.
Irving’s reported trade request occurred after Brooklyn’s embarrassing showing in a 139-96 loss at Boston on Wednesday. After winning four of their previous six games, the Nets were outscored 46-16 in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 49 points.
“I told the group I’m disappointed in the fact that I did not have them ready to play,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said after his team allowed a season-worst 26 3-pointers. The Celtics also hit 57.6% of their shots overall. “I take the blame for all of it. I’ve gotta do my part.”
Whether the Nets are ready for one of the league’s hottest teams of late remains to be seen, especially with three more games before Thursday’s trade deadline and Irving seeking a deal. He could hit free agency after the season.
Before Wednesday, the Nets’ worst showing was a 153-121 loss at Sacramento on November 15, and Brooklyn followed that up by going 19-3.
Brooklyn and Washington played three times between November 4 and December 12, with the Wizards losing all of them. The last two of those defeats came during a 10-game skid, which dropped their record to 11-20. Since then, Washington has gone 13-7 to go from a tie for 12th to a tie for ninth in the East.
One of Washington’s losses since that 10-game slide occurred Friday night when the Wizards blew a 20-point lead and saw their season-best, six-game winning streak end with a 124-116 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland hit 17 treys.
“That was a master class on how to lose a game,” Washington’s Kyle Kuzma said after the Wizards allowed more than 15 3-pointers for the third time in the past 12 games.
The Wizards held a 36-19 lead after the opening quarter but were done in by allowing 39 points in the third. Washington’s collapse spoiled big nights by Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis.
Beal scored a season-high 34 points after averaging 18.5 points in his first six games back from a strained left hamstring. Porzingis collected 32 points after getting 17 on Monday in his return from a three-game absence caused by an ankle injury.
While Beal and Porzingis are expected to play Saturday, the Nets could be without Simmons (sore left knee) and T.J. Warren (left shin contusion), who are both listed as questionable.