• Erik Slater

Kevin Durant and Nets agree to move forward together after trade demand

After months of rampant speculation, Kevin Durant will remain a member of the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets released a statement from General Manager Sean Marks indicating that Durant has ended his trade request.

"Steve Nash and I, together with Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai, met with Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles yesterday," Marks said. "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." This comes just two weeks after Durant issued an ultimatum, calling for Marks and head coach Steve Nash to be fired following a meeting with Tsai in London. Now, it appears the two parties have come to a resolution that will allow the 12-time All-Star to begin his four-year, $198 million contract in Brooklyn. Durant’s trade request broke on June 30th, and the 53 days following were packed with mock trades, non-stop speculation, and questions regarding his future. It became clear that Brooklyn was not going to settle for a subpar package - a stance that became firmer after Jazz center Rudy Gobert was traded to Minnesota for effectively six first-round picks. Durant pegged Phoenix and Miami as his preferred destinations, but with Devin Booker and Bam Adebayo off the table, neither team could meet Brooklyn’s asking price. Toronto was rumored as a logical landing spot, but their unwillingness to include Scottie Barnes closed the door on a deal. Same for New Orleans with Brandon Ingram. Boston emerged as the most likely trade partner with a package centered on Jaylen Brown. However, their refusal to include Marcus Smart and lack of tradable first-round picks made the deal a long shot. After surveying the market for Durant, several things became clear: The Nets were not going to budge on their asking price, and teams were not going to sell the farm for a 34-year-old who they could not count on to commit to their franchise. It became evident that finding a resolution was best for both parties. Despite any issues Durant may have had with Nets management, there was no denying that his best basketball situation was in Brooklyn with the team Marks had assembled. The Nets' most glaring roster hole in their first-round sweep against Boston was their lack of wings. That was addressed with the return of Ben Simmons and Joe Harris, along with the acquisitions of Royce O’Neale and T.J. Warren. Add Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, and Patty Mills in the backcourt along with Nic Claxton at center, and the Nets boast one of the most talented rosters in the league. But the talk of how talented Brooklyn’s roster is on paper has gone on for years now. The question has continually been: when will they put it all together?

The case for this season rests on 2022-2023 being a contract year for Irving. After Brooklyn refused to offer a fully-guaranteed long-term contract, Irving opted into the final year of his contract in hopes of landing a max deal next summer. That is the most significant difference separating this season from prior years. Irving now has more long-term incentive than ever to be available and productive for the Nets. Several reports have circulated detailing Irving’s commitment to Brooklyn this season. The latest from Shams Charania said the guard has been conducting workouts with teammates while holding a “constructive dialogue with the organization this offseason”. It was evident in postseason press conferences that Marks and owner Joe Tsai aimed to regain control of the franchise following two years of disarray surrounding Durant and his chosen co-star. “We’re looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves,” Marks said. “Play selfless, play team basketball, and be available.” The front office backed this up with their firm stance in Irving’s contract negotiations, publicly unphased by the possibility of losing not only Irving, but also Durant. Now, they appear to have what they wanted: both of their stars under contract for 2022-2023 and committed to the franchise. With Durant and Irving carrying the load offensively and Simmons taking a backseat as a defensive stopper/grab-and-go ball handler, the Nets are one of the most talented teams in the Eastern Conference. If the drama is finally put to rest, the team is positioned to contend for a title. But “if” is a word that has defined the Durant/Irving era in Brooklyn. Until the duo proves they can remain on the court and lead a team, that won’t change.