What seems more likely: Kevin Durant sat down with Joe Tsai, Sean Marks and Steve Nash and hashed out all the issues he had with the team during one conversation, including his trade request, his reiteration of that trade request, and asking for Marks and Nash to be fired? Or both sides realized they don’t really have a better option than their current setup?
In a bizarre announcement, the Nets put out a statement today (complete with a logo for Durant’s media company at the bottom) saying they and Durant are moving forward with their partnership. The spin has already begun, with some sources putting out the idea to reporters this is a “long-term agreement’ between the two parties. If you believe the Nets and Durant neatly tied a bow on all their drama after this one meeting, then I have a two-bedroom apartment for you to rent for less than $1,000 in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Nets and Durant, if you remember, already made a long-term agreement! Two of them, even! KD signed a contract with Brooklyn in free agency in 2019, and then a four-year extension last summer. Obviously those agreements, which actually included legally binding paperwork, didn’t mean much to Durant when he asked out this summer. Now we’re supposed to believe the next four years are going to be smooth sailing?
It seems rather obvious the Nets simply weren’t going to get a commensurate trade offer for Durant. How do you put together a package for a top-five player with four years left on his deal? When Rudy Gobert is being moved for four first-round picks, how many do you give up for KD? Eight? Not to mention the actual talent that has to be included as well. The Nets and their potential trade partners were in a clear bind. Brooklyn rightfully demanded what was probably the biggest and best trade haul ever. Teams wanting to acquire KD to win a championship soon realized if they gave away the farm for him, they probably wouldn’t be title contenders anymore because of who would have to go out the door.
This feels like a marriage of convenience for Durant and the Nets, and a tenuous one at that. If the rumors that Durant is upset with management over its handling of Kyrie Irving are true, then that elephant is still lingering in the room. Irving is on an expiring contract, and to put it mildly, is unpredictable. What if the team trades Irving to a destination not of his choosing midseason? What if it lets him walk next summer? Is Durant going to be cool with that after the role he’s played engineering the situation around him so far?
This whole situation is fragile at best, and if winning is the only cure, the irony is on paper the Nets actually have an incredibly intriguing roster. Flanking Irving and Durant are Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Nic Claxton, Joe Harris and Ben Simmons, the latter two who obviously missed the entirety of the Nets’ first-round sweep by the Celtics. T.J. Warren also looms as someone who can make an impact if he’s healthy. Of course, depending on the likes of Irving and Simmons has proven to be dicey, and there may not be a ton of confidence in the coaching staff, but the bones of a contender are absolutely here. Though the roster is probably still too guard-heavy and could use help on the wing and in the frontcourt, the Nets are absolutely positioned to make noise if everyone buys in.
But counting on that buy-in feels laughable. Brooklyn can put out this statement (which on some level could even be a galaxy-brain trade negotiation), KD could say all the right things on media day and then drop 50 in his first game, and still it probably makes sense to be skeptical. You name it—vaccine hesitancy, the wrong shoe size, handing out contracts to over-the-hill friends—and the Nets have been nearly derailed by it the last few seasons. For now, there remains no real reason to believe this partnership is built to last. And yet, if both sides are being compelled to make it work, there’s enough talent on the team that it just might.