First, Kevin Durant’s trade demand turned the entire NBA world upside down. Now, it has put the league on hold.
With more than half of NBA teams contacting the Nets with trade packages, the normal free-agency frenzy has been slowed to a crawl. As Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai sift through all those offers for the foundation of their upcoming rebuilding process — and fans have started to eye names such as Donovan Mitchell — the league is essentially in a holding pattern.
After three years of acquiescence to the wishes of Durant, and even more so of Kyrie Irving, the Nets finally held firm. They did not give Irving a full max extension, and Durant was reportedly not pleased when director of player development Adam Harrington — with whom Durant has been tight since their days together in Oklahoma City — was let go.
Still, Durant was adamant he was committed to the Nets, right up until the end.
“The ones who were locked in that gym with me know what it is, they know what I’m about,” Durant tweeted Saturday. “If u haven’t been in there with me, ask around”
Sports Illustrated’s Robin Lundberg, in a reply on Twitter to Durant, who had maintained silence since Thursday, when his trade demand rocked the franchise, wrote: “This is vague and doesn’t address anything directly. We all know you are an awesome basketball player.”
Durant, who has never seen a Twitter beef he could resist, replied, “What u want addressed?”
Lundberg rattled off a number of queries: “Do you really want a trade from the Nets? If so, why? Was Kyrie a deal breaker for you? If you do want a trade, do you expect to pick your destination? Thanks!”
Durant simply answered, “Keep dreaming robin lmao” with no further explanation.
But the fact is, Durant’s trade demand is no laughing matter for the Nets. While the four years left on his deal ensures the Nets will get a hefty return, the team’s era as a title contender is over with Durant’s departure.
While Durant has reportedly stated a preference to be traded to Miami or Phoenix, it’s difficult to picture the Heat putting together the best offer by themselves without the ability or inclination to include Bam Adebayo. Marks is expected to pick the package that’s best for the Nets, not the locale that’s best for Durant.
The Nets will work with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman more than with Irving, but they seem disinclined to be held hostage by them.
While the Suns and 76ers are believed to have made solid offers, the Raptors and Pelicans might be able to put together the cleanest packages without the need of a third or fourth team in the deal.
Both teams control their first-round draft picks seven years out. The Raptors could be able to build a trade around Scottie Barnes, while the Pelicans could offer Brandon Ingram. They also have Zion Williamson, but once he inks the designated rookie extension that he agreed to on Saturday (per ESPN), he can’t be traded to the Nets as long as Ben Simmons is on the roster.
Among the other stars that fit that category are Mitchell, Adebayo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Michael Porter Jr., Jayson Tatum and Darius Garland (presuming he signs his agreement).
The Athletic reported the Nets responded to interest from the Timberwolves by asking for Towns or Anthony Edwards, which implies they might be open to the idea of moving Simmons. If that’s the case, it would open the door for the Jazz’s Mitchell as well.
Mitchell is a 25-year-old New Yorker long coveted by the Knicks. He played his AAU ball for both The City and Riverside Hawks, and grew up around the Mets’ clubhouse because his namesake father was the team’s longtime director of player relations. Mitchell has been ubiquitous at Citi Field in recent weeks, including Saturday.
Marks and Tsai won’t rush the process. The Durant trade is their only shot to turbocharge the arduous rebuilding ahead. But with all the league GMs set to descend on Las Vegas for summer league after the July 4 weekend (Durant announced his move from the Thunder to the Warriors on July 4, 2016), the market could get unfrozen soon.
The Nets rescinded the qualifying offer on Kessler Edwards, according to Hoopshype. Edwards becomes a restricted free agent, but the Nets have his non-Bird rights are still talking to the 21-year-old forward.