Durant manufactured the Nets a matter in 2019 when he teamed up with Irving, growing their local tv scores, vaulting them up the goods rankings and elevating them into the title conversation. With out a question, his trade request, which came soon after a nightmare period defined by Irving’s refusal to get the coronavirus vaccine, could split the crew.
But this inverted electric power dynamic — the franchise participant lording above the franchise — is precisely why Durant just cannot afford to pay for to get this summertime energy play wrong, and why he will bear the heaviest load till the condition is settled.
Durant has appeared in 95 postseason wins since his 2007 arrival in the NBA, although Brooklyn received just 18 playoff online games in the course of that time time period — 7 in 2021. Durant has additional NBA titles and extra Finals appearances than the Nets, who ended up inclined to cede ability to him and Irving because they concluded, fairly, that it was their most effective possibility to contend. The Nets will recede into the qualifications as shortly as they cuts ties with their headliners, but the highlight will stick to Durant anywhere he goes because he is a 1st-ballot Hall of Fame talent whose questionable vocation choices have been catnip for critics.
Feel back to 2016, when he established up shop in the Hamptons and produced the polarizing choice to go away the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder for the Golden Condition Warriors. That was an effortless call on various ranges: Durant joined a nearly-unbeatable superteam, received his championship validation and constructed an off-courtroom empire in Silicon Valley. Of system, his detractors thought it was all too simple, labeling him a bandwagoner and a betrayer for hopping to a 73-acquire juggernaut that gained the 2015 title with no him and eradicated the Thunder from the 2016 playoffs. Left driving, Oklahoma City has not been out of the 1st round since.
There was significantly less backlash initially when Durant picked the Nets. He had just experienced a devastating Achilles personal injury in the Finals, and his cross-state transfer leveled the NBA’s competitive landscape. But the pushback picked up significantly when Brooklyn traded for Harden, who overtly compelled his way out of Houston with sharp-elbowed strategies.
For quite a few, the Nets turned uncomplicated to root from, just an additional big-marketplace workforce trying to get shortcuts and getting directions from its stars. Durant and Irving appeared to keep key sway on player signings, starting up lineup decisions and the choice to section with Kenny Atkinson and use Steve Nash as coach. As soon as Harden arrived, Nash overtly admitted to deferring to his stars on actively playing time and injury administration.
Contrary to Durant’s Warriors, the Nets’ ends never ever justified the suggests. They won just a single playoff collection in 3 yrs, with Irving’s anti-vaccine eligibility difficulties derailing past time and Harden responding by forcing a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. Durant will have to bear the blame for his misguided loyalty to Irving, and for his incapability to preserve the trio on the exact same web site when times got tough. Even though he played brilliantly throughout the 2021 playoffs, he came up small as a franchise pillar.
The accrued baggage from Durant’s two previous free agency decisions now hangs about his latest predicament. Requesting a trade from Brooklyn two months just after a humiliating initially-spherical exit has resurrected the Warriors-era bandwagon accusations, primarily mainly because his wished-for trade targets, the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat, have been No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences very last year. In the meantime, inquiring out less than a yr just after signing a greatest deal extension value virtually $200 million only underscored the transactional nature of his tenure in Brooklyn.
Durant, who has played 90 overall online games over the past a few several years combined and will transform 34 in September, is going for walks a tightrope. This summertime signifies his previous, finest probability to craft a fulfilling up coming chapter for his career.
If he lands with the contending Suns, he will be set up by Chris Paul and in place to age gracefully with Devin Booker ready to pick up the slack. LeBron James justified his transfer to the Los Angeles Lakers with the 2020 title and Paul checked off an essential legacy box by top the Suns to the 2021 Finals. Durant could enjoy a identical reframing of his job with an prolonged operate of no-nonsense postseason results in Phoenix.
But the Nets are not obligated to trade him to the Suns, who glance like a normal landing place specified their skill to portion with Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and many draft property. If Brooklyn can’t get what it wants from Phoenix or Miami and pivots to in search of the greatest offer, like San Antonio did with Kawhi Leonard, Durant may possibly require to brace for lifestyle on a non-contender. The Toronto Raptors landed Leonard in 2018 and are reportedly intrigued in Durant now. They gained the 2019 title with Leonard simply because they didn’t have to gut their rotation to get him, but would they have enough expertise to compete with the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics if compelled to trade many main items for Durant?
Durant must have a substantial role in steering the trade offered his age, personal injury history, prolonged agreement and indeniable will need to get major. 3 of his most important rivals — James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry — have claimed the final 3 championships. The clock is ticking, and Durant’s ideal hope for boosting his standing amongst the NBA’s all-time greats is to earn a title with out the Warriors. Climbing to those people heights involves a stable place, not a bridge resolution or a crew he is not eager to fully embrace followed by a further move in a yr or two.
Brooklyn, for its part, should drive a challenging bargain in trade talks, and its front place of work should really be ecstatic at the inflated, pick-major hauls drawn very last week by Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gobert. Time is on the Nets’ side to a degree the Rockets benefited from a individual method with Harden and the New Orleans Pelicans did perfectly just after waiting around until the summer months of 2019 to ship Anthony Davis to the Lakers.
What Durant totally shouldn’t do is buckle and return to the Nets. Their absence of depth was exposed in the playoffs, and just this previous week they have previously dropped Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond. A lot more importantly, Irving has proved that he lacks the trustworthiness, on and off the court, to help a deep postseason operate. A negotiating U-switch from Durant may well be welcomed by some Nets enthusiasts, but a trade request this monumental will go away scars and hurt inner thoughts.
There is only a single trustworthy way out of this mess: Durant desires to change teams, then improve the story by profitable it all.