Anyone who thought a year ago that the Nets would land Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the opening of the 2019 NBA free-agent market Sunday afternoon also would have bought a certain bridge in Brooklyn. But the Nets bridged whatever credibility gaps they faced when the earth-shaking news exploded on social media that Durant and Irving are taking their talents to Barclays Center to form the NBA’s newest “super team.”
The magnitude of the coup pulled off by Nets general manager Sean Marks was off the Richter scale. Irving previously had indicated that he was headed to the Nets, but when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted news that Durant and DeAndre Jordan, a close friend of Durant’s, were planning to join him more than an hour ahead of the 6 p.m. start of the negotiating period, the reaction was stunned disbelief.
Durant made it official a few minutes after the negotiating period opened when he posted the following notice on his Instagram/Boardroom/ account: “Kevin Durant to sign with Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant has confirmed he will sign a max contract deal with the Brooklyn Nets when the free agent moratorium ends on July 6th.”
News of Irving’s agreement followed quickly, and a short while later, Wojnarowski reported that the Nets had signed nine-year veteran shooting guard Garrett Temple to a two-year deal worth $10 million, using their room exception. Wojnarowski later reported that Durant and Irving will take less than the maximum to bring Jordan on board.
Formal contracts can’t be signed until July 6, but Durant is in line for a four-year deal worth $164 million and Irving will receive a four-year deal worth $141 million. According to ESPN cap expert Bobby Marks, Durant and Irving will structure their contracts as full maxes but with bonuses that save the Nets $9.3 million in cap room, which would be the starting salary for a four-year, $40 million deal for Jordan. Even if Durant and Irving receive the bonus money and achieve the max value of their contracts, it doesn’t affect the space the Nets need now to sign Jordan.
Shortly before midnight ET, Wojnarowski reported that the Nets had completed a sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors for All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell, who will receive a four-year max deal worth $117 million. The deal included Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier, and the Nets likely won’t get more than a second-round pick.
Durant left an additional $57 million on the table by turning down the Warriors’ five-year, $221 million offer. His decision may have been related to medical advice he received during the NBA Finals. After missing more than a month with a right calf injury, he was encouraged to play Game 5 and suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon early in the second period that is expected to sideline him for the 2019-20 season.
Durant’s injury was repaired on June 12 by Nets physician Martin O’Malley, who repaired a previous Durant foot injury. The Nets are known for their top-notch medical and conditioning team that puts an emphasis on “load management” to maintain players’ health, and that likely was a consideration for Durant, who will be 32 before he suits up for the Nets in the 2020-21 season.
Irving and Durant previously hinted they might team up in free agency, but there was widespread speculation that they planned to join the Knicks. The emphasis shifted to the Nets in the past month when Irving, who grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, as a Nets fan, indicated that was his preference.
Marks’ bold move does not come without risk. Obviously, there are questions about Durant’s recovery from his injury, but he’s a 10-time All-Star, six-time NBA scoring champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP, and he won NBA MVP honors in 2013-14 with the Thunder. He has career averages of 27.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists and a .381 three-point shooting percentage.
Irving also comes with some baggage after a controversial season with the Celtics in which he was identified as a disruptive force in the locker room. But he will be returning to his comfort zone in the New York metro area to play under coach Kenny Atkinson, who has succeeded with a string of point guards.
Irving is a six-time All-Star who teamed with LeBron James to lead the Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA title. He has career averages of 22.0 points and 5.7 assists and a .390 three-point percentage.
Durant, Irving, Temple and Jordan join an excellent young supporting cast, including guards Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, forwards Joe Harris, Taurean Prince (another good friend of Durant’s) and Rodions Kurucs, and center Jarrett Allen.
The end result was a seismic shift in the Nets’ fortunes.