Because of a mixture of personal reasons, return-from-injury, Health and Safety Protocols, new injuries, rest nights, conservative treatment of not-so-serious injuries, the 2021 Brooklyn Nets ran an absolute clinic in load management. The big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden only appeared in eight regular season games. It wasn’t a surprise when head coach Steve Nash would give the update that both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would out of the lineup last year.
Some games coach Nash would even clear his bench to rest his starters a few minutes well-before the a game was out of hand, sending a clear signal to the NBA “we want to be healthy for the playoffs more than we want home court advantage.”
One night that seemed to summarize their approach last season was an April showdown in in Philadelphia. Harden was out. Durant didn’t dress. Irving was available but resting on the bench when the Nets’ reserves cut into the Sixers lead. Nash opted not to bring Kyrie back into a close 3 point ballgame with over two minutes remaining. It was an eminently winnable contest but the Nets basically said “meh, we’d rather a few extra minutes of rest for Ky than a massive one-seed-on-the-line” win.
Fast forward. It’s a pretty big contrast from this season’s strategy so far. The 2022 Nets seem like they’re pushing a lot harder than last year’s group.