The biggest question around the NBA: How will the situation between Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant unfold?
Will the Nets trade him (and to whom) or will they play hard and not agree to his ultimatum to keep him or general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash?
Durant reiterated his request for a trade and the ultimatum in a meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai, who quickly tweeted his support for the front office and coaching staff after details of the meeting became public in a report in The Athletic.
It’s unusual for off-season drama to stretch that far into the summer, but it happens. The summer LeBron James rejoined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Kevin Love was traded from Minnesota to Cleveland in late August, and the Cavs also sent Kyrie Irving to Boston in late August. In 2012, Oklahoma City traded James Harden to Houston in late October, just before the regular season started and after Harden and the Thunder failed to agree an extension.
As Nets-Durant’s situation worsens, USA TODAY Sports reached out to team managers and agents to see where they thought Durant would end up. They asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about an opponent’s player or a player they do not represent.
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The Nets need to determine how much this will affect the 2022-23 season. Three team managers said they wanted the Nets to call Durant’s bluff. Don’t trade him, don’t make front office or coaching changes, and see if he reports to camp or is willing to stick with it and hand in salary. An executive believes Durant will start the season with Brooklyn and finish elsewhere before the trade UKTN.
Durant is entering the first year of a $194.2 million four-year extension he signed a year ago. That’s easier for rival managers, of course, because it’s not their dilemma. However, there are executives who believe that stars requesting transactions so early in new contracts will be a topic of discussion among owners when it comes to a new collective bargaining agreement. The current collective labor agreement will expire after the 2023-2024 season.
Phoenix, Boston, Toronto and Miami are the teams most involved in a possible Durant transaction. Once the Suns agreed to Indiana’s offer for center Deandre Ayton, that essentially eliminated the Suns from acquiring Durant, as Ayton can veto any trade this season.
While acknowledging that this is the NBA and anything is possible, three people said they believe Boston has moved away from a potential Durant deal. The Boston Globe reported this week that Brooklyn was seeking both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in an exchange for Durant, which is ridiculous. It never hurts to ask, but it’s laughable. With the previous caveat that anything is possible, executives don’t believe Brad Stevens, Celtics president of basketball operations, is reluctant to drag players through more trade rumours.
This week, Philadelphia gained traction as Durant’s favorite haunt in reports from SNY TV and NBA Radio on Sirius/XM after Durant was spotted in London with Harden at a Travis Scott concert. Given that Brooklyn sent Harden to Philadelphia on the trade UKTN, it looks like the Nets would help a conference rival with another star.
Several directors and agents are not discounting Toronto and Miami, but under one condition: the Nets lower their asking price. The Heat doesn’t want to involve Bam Adebayo and the Raptors don’t want to break up with Scottie Barnes in a deal for Durant. Teams are concerned about the acquisition of upcoming 34-year-old Durant, who missed the entire 2019-20 season to recover from an Achilles tendon injury and played in just 90 of 154 possible games in the past two seasons.
Another team mentioned by executives is New Orleans. The Pelicans have a stash of first round picks, but they have to weigh the risk. Will Durant be happy to play for New Orleans and will the Pelicans soon find themselves in the same position as Brooklyn, dealing with a player who wants a trade?
It’s tempting to think of Durant along with Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum, but it also means trading with Brandon Ingram. Do the Pelicans have the guts for such a gamble?
The Nets could also try to convince Durant to watch the season begin and then revisit a trade later in the season. Remember when Kobe Bryant wanted a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2007? The Lakers resisted and ended up with a team winning consecutive titles – the fourth and fifth (and final) championships in Bryant’s career.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin Durant Trading: Where Will Nets Star Land? NBA executives weigh in