Amid a chaotic and troubling campaign for the Brooklyn Nets, the James Harden/Ben Simmons swap could be what the team needs to turn their season around.
With Harden gone, the team can focus more on basketball and put all the dramatics behind them.
On the court, the arrival of Ben Simmons will require a huge adjustment for everyone on the team, and not the least of which is Kyrie Irving, whose role has been elevated with Harden's prompt exit.
Speaking on First Take, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith explained why Kyrie is set to face the ultimate test with these new-look Nets:
"Ben Simmons' arrival puts more of an offensive onus on Kyrie's shoulders. And because it does that -- since you got Ben, since you got Drummond -- you know what we gonna find out: How dedicated are you Kyrie? You gonna leave them hanging. Because clearly with these moves that have been made, you're needed now more than ever. You gonna still not take the vaccine? You gonna still leave them hanging? Check me if I'm wrong. but isn't that a part of leadership?"
Kyrie Irving has missed most of the season due to his failure to comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandates. When the Nets had Harden on the team, Irving's absence was less important as his responsibility wasn't as high.
But with the Beard gone, Irving is going to need to step up, which means producing more on the basketball court and (most importantly) being available for his team as much as he can.
Unfortunately, Irving has not yet shown a willingness to take the shot and has stood firm in his original decision. With no talks of an immediate rule change in New York City, it could mean that Irving continues his limited availability into the playoffs, where the Nets will have to contend with the Sixers, Bucks, and Heat for the Eastern Conference throne.
Like it or not, the future of the Nets could depend on Kyrie's vaccinated status. With the pressure is on, and a Championship on the line, will he consider changing his mind?