Durant and Irving choosing the Nets in free agency doesn’t prove all that speculation was correct all along. But maybe all that speculation was correct all along.
Durant and Irving were going to play together, somewhere, in 2019. That’s what they resolved over a series of conversations before this season even began, according to knowledgeable sources.
Initially, Irving and Durant discussed joining forces with the Knicks.
Simply put, the Nets had the superior roster, the more proven front office, the better infrastructure to support two superstars. Irving and Durant both recognized it by midseason, according to knowledgeable sources.
I trust Beck’s reporting, but an important caveat: Stars talk about teaming up way more often than they actually team up. Just because this one actually happened doesn’t mean it was always fait accompli. These plans fall apart all the time for a variety of reasons. I’m not convinced Durant and Irving were more steadfast in their intention to team up than other stars who talked about it but never did. The circumstances might have just broken the right way for Durant and Irving to do it.
Irving seemed miserable with the Celtics. He failed to connect with Brad Stevens and his younger teammates. Irving’s leadership attempts went sideways. Not only was he ready to move on, many Celtics were eager for him to depart.
Durant brooded for portions of the seasons with the Warriors. He squabbled with Draymond Green, lashed out at the media and clashed with Steve Kerr. His injury in the NBA Finals might have pushed him even further from Golden State.
But it’s also worth wondering: Did Irving’s and Durant’s plan cause them to find unhappiness in their prior situations? Even subconsciously, they could have been looking ahead and/or wanting to find reasons to leave.
Durant did little to raise expectations of staying with the Warriors. Many thought he’d bolt, though the common expectation was to the Knicks.
Irving, on the other hand, pledged just before the season to re-sign in Boston and even made a commercial about it. This reports shines a whole new light on that. Irving backed off his commitment before the trade deadline, but what did he know when making his original remarks in October? Was he really that full of BS? Did Irving and Durant plan to team up on the Celtics? (An opt-in-and-trade would have been feasible.) Had Irving and Durant not yet conspired? There are now even more questions surrounding that moment.