The Kevin Durant trade saga is stalled out.
Durant first asked to be dealt the day before the start of free agency — requesting to go to Phoenix or Miami — and through early July the Nets listened to offers from those two and a host of other teams. No offer met the Nets’ steep demands, so they waited. A frustrated Durant met with Nets owner Joe Tsai within the last two weeks and tried to ramp up the pressure to get a deal done by throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum. Tsai shrugged. Marc Stein says a source told him Durant would rather retire than play for the Nets again, but nobody thinks it will come to that (as if KD would walk away from $192 million).
Now here we are in mid-August and nothing is going on. In the wake of Durant’s ultimatum, teams did not up their offers and the Nets didn’t decide to take less. Brian Windhorst of ESPN summed it up nicely on “Get Up”:
“I think what we have here is really a study of leverage. First off, the Nets do not have leverage in trade talks with other teams. They are not giving them the offers that they want. They see no reason to increase them. And so they’re not making any progress there. And Kevin Durant clearly does not have leverage with the Brooklyn Nets. He is asking for things: ‘Get me traded. Fire the coach. Fire the GM.’ He is being told no. So when you have denied leverage, you have a stalemate.”
What happens next?
A test of wills come training camp. The stalemate is not going to break before that.
Media day for the Brooklyn Nets is scheduled for Sept. 26, and it is going to be a dumpster fire.
The first question is: Will Kevin Durant be there, or will he hold out? Or, might he show up but “hold in” and not participate in anything? Only Durant and his team know the answer, although there is a growing sense around the league a holdout could happen. How big a disruption is he willing to be to get his way (think Jimmy Butler in Minnesota)? The problem for Durant is all of that flies in the face of the reputation he has worked to build of the superstar who just loves to hoop. The guy who puts the game first, something that has always felt genuine with him. It’s always been about basketball. However, hold out of camp and suddenly basketball isn’t No.1 anymore. It changes the vibe.
The next question is, how will the Nets handle the pressure as the season gets close?
The whole New York and national basketball media will descend on Nets media day and pepper coach Steve Nash, GM Sean Marks (we’ll assume he speaks) and every player with questions about Durant and what his absence means. Especially Kyrie Irving, who is expected to play for the Nets this season whether Durant is there or not (would anyone be surprised if Irving skipped media day?). Ben Simmons is getting ready for his first NBA games in more than a year — and questions about his physical and mental state — will almost be an afterthought. The Kevin Durant saga will be a distraction for the Nets until it is resolved.
Last season, Daryl Morey and the 76ers handled a similar distraction with Ben Simmons and waited out the market (until James Harden forced his way out of Brooklyn). Do Marks, Tsai and the Nets have the same comfort with being uncomfortable that Morey and the 76ers showed? Or does it all get to be too much and they just take the best offer on the table at the time to get the whole thing in the rearview mirror?
There are so many questions and so few answers around the Durant trade saga, but settle in folks, this bumpy ride is far from over. It’s heading to training camp in six weeks.