If Nets owner Joe Tsai wants to keep Kevin Durant, he needs to fire general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash.
That, according to a report in The Athletic, was the ultimatum Durant delivered to Tsai in a face-to-face meeting on Saturday in London. Durant reportedly told Tsai that he no longer has much faith in the team’s direction.
That Durant would deliver such an ultimatum to Tsai is somewhat surprising, considering Nash was his hand-picked coach to take over the team when Durant and Kyrie Irving signed as free agents in the summer of 2019.
Tsai responded Monday night. “Our front office and coaching staff have my support,” he tweeted. “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”
Durant first demanded to be traded on June 30. Since then, the Nets are believed to have had trade conversations with nearly every team in the league but have not been able to agree to a deal they thought was worthy of the 12-time All-Star.
Durant’s most recent meeting with Tsai took place exactly a year to the day after Durant signed a four-year, $198 million extension with the Nets.
Since then, not much has gone right for the team.
First, Irving was limited to being a part-time player for most of the season after he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine he needed to play in New York.
Next, James Harden demanded to be traded and was sent to Philadelphia.
Then Ben Simmons, obtained in the Harden trade, didn’t play a minute for the Nets last season because of back and mental health issues.
Finally, the entire season bottomed out in embarrassment when the Celtics swept the Nets from the playoffs in the first round. The Nets had been the Las Vegas favorite to win the title at the beginning of the season.
The offseason has been no less chaotic.
In a news conference an hour after being swept by the Celtics, Irving — who had one good playoff game — said he had “no intention of leaving” and basically said he, Durant, Marks and Tsai would be managing the franchise together.
A few weeks later, Marks made it clear in a news conference that he was the general manager running the show and was noncommittal about Irving’s future with the team, saying he wants “selfless” players who can “be available.”
After a contentious negotiation over a long-term contract extension, Irving opted into the final year of his contract, which will pay him $37 million. Three days later, Durant asked to be traded.
There has been much unsubstantiated conjecture that Durant’s demand is tied to the way the team dealt with Irving, his close friend.
Durant, 33, still is considered one of the best players in the game as he enters his 16th season.
In 55 games this past season, he averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists, shooting 51.9% from the field and 38.3% from three-point range.
Durant gave Nash a vote of confidence after the Game 4 loss to Boston, saying he was the right coach to lead the Nets into the future.
“Steve’s been dealt a crazy hand the last two years,” Durant said. “He’s had to deal with so much stuff as a head coach, a first-time coach. Trades, injuries, COVID and just a lot of stuff he had to deal with.”
Marks has been the Nets’ general manager since 2016. He oversaw the acquisition of Durant and Irving.
He also brokered the trade to acquire Harden from the Houston Rockets and the subsequent deadline deal last season that sent Harden to the 76ers.