The Kevin Durant-Brooklyn Nets soap opera is rolling on, with no clear resolution in sight. The player wants to leave, or he wants those in the backroom gone – and with ownership not budging on either case, it remains to be seen how the superstar forward will get out of this corner that he’s painted himself into.
The Nets were widely considered among title favourites last year, with the ‘big three’ of Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden all in town – but Irving was unable to play the majority of games due to his stance on vaccinations, and Harden was run out of town in a trade with the 76ers.
Brooklyn would have thought the drama regarding their roster for this season was over when, just days after demanding a trade, Irving opted in to the final year of his deal.
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But instead, they were left with Durant, who has four years and $284 million left on his contract, suddenly wanting out.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how and why this started – from the outside, the Nets have done everything asked of them by Durant when it comes to personnel, both on and off the court, including head coach Steve Nash – who Durant has reportedly soured on since.
Nets owner Joseph Tsai’s backing of his coach and general manager Sean Marks isn’t necessarily a tacit endorsement of their abilities – Nash in particular has been widely criticised for game management and rotations, among other things – but it’s a message to Durant that he can’t expect to continue to call all the shots.
The length of Durant’s contract gives him very little leverage in this situation. Even in an era where players have more power than ever before to dictate their surroundings, if the Nets refuse to blink, there’s not a lot he can do.
There’s an argument that Nash should be let go regardless, while Marks’ case is more nuanced.
The Kiwi-born GM has made move after more in the past two years to cater to Durant and build a competitive roster at the same time – and had their three stars been able to co-exist all year, and be on the court for the majority of games, things might have been different.
If you want to look at a like-minded situation, you don’t have to go far – Australia’s own Ben Simmons was in a very similar scenario last year, where he burned salary with every day of the 76ers’ season that passed and he continued to hold out.
He was eventually sent to Brooklyn, as part of that Harden trade, although didn’t play a game due to injury. With that in mind, the Nets have plenty of time to wait for an ideal trade, or for Durant to blink.
What they won’t do, and what they can’t do, is back down now.
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