Durant’s Desired Destinations of Miami Heat or Phoenix Suns Here’s a novel idea for Sean Marks, the general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, as he navigates Kevin Durant’s demand that the superstar be traded to some very specific teams: To hell with player power. Say it nicer than that, of course. Use charm and professionalism in communicating to Durant’s business manager, Rich Kleiman, that they can all work together to find an amicable deal. Sing kumbaya together.
Say what you must. The real task, though, is to push back on the temptation to even remotely care that Durant craves playing next for this team or that team, the Heat or the Suns or whatever group of contending teams catch his wayward eye. Durant was a part of the Nets power structure and a partner in trying to navigate the choppy waters of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Ben Simmons and a disappointing year.
Durant’s Desired Destinations of Miami Heat or Phoenix Suns
Now he’s an asset, an all-time great player with four years four! left under contract. He is, in fact, perhaps the most valuable player ever on the trade market given those years, one who reportedly went around Marks, straight to Nets owner Joe Tsai, to demand an exit. Supposedly without communicating with the Nets front office all week.
He wants to play hardball?
No problem, Kevin. Here’s some hardball for you: The Heat, one of the team’s on his “wish list,” can’t trade Bam Adebayo to the Nets as long as Ben Simmons is on Brooklyn’s roster because no team can carry two players with the designated rookie extension. And no Bam has to equal no deal. This is hardball, and moving Simmons right now would be even more daunting then, say, the Lakers moving on from Westbrook. Plus, Bam/Tyler Herro/Duncan Robinson/picks isn’t enough, even if it was possible.
First, Durant, who has a history of injury and is going to be 34 years old in September, has those four years left on his deal. There is not a single iota of a chance that, were KD to have blown his MCL, or gotten otherwise seriously injured, or simply regressed in terms of output, that he would have woken up one morning in Brooklyn and agreed to give some of that money back. It’s a contract. It’s a deal. He got security from it in case of bad luck or sudden old age.
KD played hardball, caring not one ounce for the Nets’ future or Marks’ career. Fine. Everyone’s an adult here. But why on earth would Marks do anything that’s outside his, and his team’s, best interests? Marks has, for years, been the steward of a team that went from severely limited in its options, to promising and young, to a supposed contender, to, on Durant’s change of mood, a potential dumpster fire.
So there’s a single word Marks must offer up to this latest demand of Durant’s wish list: No.
In the expectation that Durant might take this route, I had conversations this week with NBA league sources on the notion of refusing to bend to a star’s demand for an exit. They were met with a range of responses. Incredulity. Reminders that stars can simply shut it down, and in Simmons the Nets have a front-row example. The devastating impact of a star who does play, but does not try.
But Durant’s wants are of no concern to the Nets. Meet his hardball with their own. You want to sit out? Fine. Sit out the next four years. You want to play somewhere else? We’ll see. Go find us a deal we want, not some frontrunner (again) that fits your purely self-interested needs. You want a ring elsewhere? Yeah, we’ve seen that story from you before. Just understand we’re chasing our own ring, and we won’t move you without the requisite pieces to make that possible.