The Brooklyn Nets were title favorites heading into last season. They had a trio of superstars in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, who looked like they would be the most unstoppable offense that the league had ever seen.
Then, thanks to Irving’s status as a part time player, Harden packed his bags and forced his way to the Philadelphia 76ers via a blockbuster trade that saw Ben Simmons head to Brooklyn at the trade deadline.
Now, six months later, Kevin Durant has formally requested a trade from the Nets right after Irving opted into the last year of his contract. This is the culmination of their bizarre 2021-22 season, and it’s wild to think that a team that had legitimate title hopes was instead consumed by infighting.
The funniest part is that Durant, who was maligned for taking the ‘hardest road’ by joining the 73-9 Golden State Warriors after they blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers, has apparently included last year’s top seeds in the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat as part of his preferred destinations.
This means that there will now be an arms race to see who can provide the very best deal for the Nets. Durant is on the first year of $192 million four-year extension that has no player options, so Brooklyn can and should extensively view all of their options. It’s quite possible that every single NBA team will make some sort of offer, because that’s the type of gravity that Durant has even though he turns 34 in September. In fact, any GM that doesn’t at least inquire should be fired.
Funnily enough, we can’t actually give a grade to the trio of Durant, Harden and Irving, since they played a grand total of two regular season games as a trio in 2021-22. They played eight regular season games together in 2020-21, and six playoff games that year. That’s right, they played 16 games together total. Instead, we have to take a look at their individual contributions.
For a guy who talks a lot about how he’s disrespected, Durant sure seems intent on giving fans and the media ammo to use against him. He’s now entered true villain territory. LeBron James, at the very least, always left in free agency in all of his stints – and also contributed at least one title to the team he moved away from. Durant’s contribution to the Nets boils down to one conference semi-finals and one first round sweep.
I’m personally still trying to figure out what kind of blood debt Durant has with Irving. Considering how everything has played out in the last couple of days, it seems clear to me that Irving said he was heading off, so Durant said opt-in and get your money and then put in his trade request. It feels difficult to think that any team could put together a trade package for both Irving and Durant, so they should be going their separate ways in the coming weeks.
Plus, if I were the Nets, I wouldn’t package Durant and Irving together. It would be hard to get a good haul back if they came as a package, but separately Durant can still command a king’s ransom. However, even that’s at stake, because as this breakdown from ESPN goes, the presence of Ben Simmons on the Nets roster puts some limitations on potential trades.
The coming days and weeks are going to be WILD. I can’t wait to see what happens, but what a shitty situation this all is for Nets management and fans. They swung for the fences, failed miserably, and are now looking at a though few seasons. Where they once had D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and a bunch of draft picks, they’re now looking at Ben ‘Bad Back’ Simmons and whoever they can get back for Durant and Irving.
I don’t agree with Stephen A. Smith a lot, but his recent rant on Durant and Irving is spot-on. The Nets always seemed doomed after Irving started talking about not needing a coach, and all of the other drama, but Durant deserves as much blame because of how he enabled his best friend. I can’t really think of another franchise that was damaged as much by two stars that were supposed to lead them to multiple championships.