Nets have ‘earned’ status as 2021 NBA playoff villains

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As the second season — the real season — starts this week, the Nets have been cast as the bad boys, the villains of the NBA.

And several pundits and former players said that’s not just a random narrative, but a title the Nets deserve.

“When you form a super team like that, teams are gonna root against you,” ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, who played alongside Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, said on a conference call Monday. And he broke down why all of the Big 3 have contributed to all the Nets hate of late.

“A lot of people are not fans of Kyrie because of some of the things he says off the court in the media. When he gets in between those lines, he’s a magician with the pill, right? He’s a musician with the rock. Then you look at KD, a guy who’s not afraid to go back-and-forth with people on Twitter. He already has a history from when he joined the Golden State Warriors; a lot of people didn’t agree with that.

“And now he’s with Kyrie, they’re already kind of the villains. And then the way that James Harden left Houston, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it, right? The way that he treated [Stephen] Silas, African American coach that’d been in the game for 20-plus years and finally got an opportunity, the way he handled the situation and forced his way out, that’s why people look at them as the villains.”

Kevin Durant and James Harden

Fellow ESPN analyst Jalen Rose concurred.

“Perk is exactly right, they earned it. And this is why they actually wanted to play together to me, they want to prove that they can win it all their way. … They earned the villain role,” said Rose, who added the Nets are also still the second team in their own city, behind the Knicks.

And there’s only one way to change that.

“In one season, the Nets didn’t accomplish their goal of taking over New York City. So the way they go get their love is actually win it all.”

Joe Harris shot an NBA-leading and Nets-record 47.5 percent from 3-point range, only the fifth player to top the league multiple times.

Irving became just the fourth player ever with 50/40/90 shooting splits and average 25 points, joining Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Larry Bird.

He also made $525,000 in performance bonuses (3s, turnovers, Offensive Rating and free-throw percentage). His cap hit is $35.46 million, according to ex-Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks, now with ESPN.

Mike James wants to stay in the NBA rather than return to CSKA, and Eurohoops reported the Russian team is willing to let him stay and negotiate a buyout in the summer. The Nets can contribute $800,000 to a buyout.

With CSKA extending James’ coach — whom he feuded with — reported the guard will try to stay stateside.

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