After a contentious and uncertain summer, the Nets and Kevin Durant announced that the trade talk is over and the team is moving forward with their star in place.
On June 30, the eve of the opening of the free agent market, Durant requested a trade from the Nets — never issuing any public declaration of why he wanted out after agreeing to a four-year contract extension that will begin with the upcoming season. And after meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai earlier this month there were reports that Durant had issued an ultimatum, asking to either be traded or for Tsai to replace general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash, reports that seemed to be confirmed by Tsai tweeting out his support of the front office and coaching staff.
But with the Nets setting a huge haul in return from any team and Durant, without a no-trade clause, requesting a handful of teams he’d prefer, the two sides did the only thing that made sense — finding a peaceful solution to remain together.
The Nets issued a statement attributed to Marks that said, “Steve Nash and I, together with Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai, met with Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles yesterday. We have agreed to move forward with our partnership. We are focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn.”
So after months of speculation in which it seemed the most stable piece of the franchise was Ben Simmons — who didn’t play a game last season — the Nets now appear ready to move forward with Durant, Kyrie Irving and Simmons heading a team that for all its questions, could be one of the favorites to win an NBA championship.
Of course, that is if Durant plays willingly and well for a coach and GM he tried to get ousted, if Irving shows up and Simmons shakes off the health — physical and mental — issues that have plagued him.
Irving’s issues, from his refusal to get vaccinated last season, costing him much of the season, to his expiring contract that the Nets chose not to extend, could have been a factor in Durant’s wishes to depart three years after he and Irving paired up to sign together in Brooklyn.
The path to get the pieces to remain in place was a rocky one with few teams willing to take a chance on Irving, who has found reasons to sit out as a regular occurrence and has left each team he left slamming the door behind him. And Durant reportedly requested a trade to Phoenix or Miami as his preferred destinations, but it wasn’t as simple as just relocating him.
With Simmons on the roster the Nets were unable to bring back a player who was on a rookie max extension — ruling out nearly every player the Nets would want back as a rising star. The reported return the Nets were seeking was an All-Star player, a rising young star and multiple first-round picks, and there just wasn’t a taker at that cost.
The Suns and Nets engaged in talks, but once they brought back DeAndre Ayton, matching Indiana’s offer on the restricted free agent, their hands were tied with Mikal Bridges as the most attractive piece — still far from Durant’s level of stardom. And then the Nets found the market hesitant to go all-in on Durant, who will turn 34 years old before the start of the season and has had his share of injury problems.
The Celtics were reported by The Athletic to have offered Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and a first-round pick — but would not include Marcus Smart or Robert Williams III. One by one the Nets found teams balking with the Raptors refusing to include Scottie Barnes, the Pelicans naming Brandon Ingram as a franchise cornerstone who would not be moved, and even the Grizzlies squashing rumors by refusing to add Jaren Jackson Jr. in a deal. The Heat remained a possibility but did not have a surplus of draft picks and were hesitant to include Bam Adebayo.
The Nets had put this team together with Durant and Irving getting pieces they wanted added to the roster. Nash was brought in to replace Kenny Atkinson, who had raised the team to a respectable level before being pushed aside.