First, Kevin Durant’s trade demand turned the entire NBA world upside down. Now the league has put it on hold.
With more than half of NBA teams contacting the networks with trade packs, the normal free agency craze has been slowed to a crawl. As Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai sift through all of these offers for the foundation of their upcoming rebuild process — and fans have begun eyeing names like Donovan Mitchell — the league is essentially on hold.
After three years of agreeing to Durant’s wishes and even more so to Kyrie Irving, the Nets finally held on. They didn’t give Irving a full maximum overtime, and Durant was reportedly not pleased when director of player development Adam Harrington — with whom Durant has been close since their Oklahoma City days together — was fired.
Even so, Durant insisted he was committed to the Nets until the end.
“Those locked in this gym with me know what it is, they know what I’m about,” Durant tweeted Saturday. “If you haven’t been with me yet, ask around”
Sports Illustrated’s Robin Lundberg wrote in a Twitter response to Durant, who had been silent since Thursday when his trade demand rocked the franchise, “This is vague and doesn’t address anything directly. We all know you’re a great basketball player.”
Durant, who’s never seen a Twitter beef he could resist, replied, “What would you like addressed?”
Lundberg rattled off a series of questions: “Are you sure you want a trade off the nets? If yes why? Was Kyrie a deal breaker for you? If you want a trade, do you expect to pick your target? Many Thanks!”
Durant simply replied, “Keep dreaming Robin Lmao” without further explanation.
But the fact of the matter is, Durant’s trade demand for the Nets is no laughing matter. While the remaining four years of his contract ensure the Nets generate a hefty return, the team’s era as title contenders ended with Durant’s departure.
While Durant has reportedly stated a preference for a Miami or Phoenix trade, it’s difficult to imagine the Heat putting together the best deal on their own without the ability or inclination to include Bam Adebayo. Marks is expected to select the package that is best for the Nets, not the locale that is best for Durant.
The Nets will work more with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman than Irving, but they don’t seem inclined to be held hostage by them.
While the Suns and 76ers are believed to have made solid offers, the Raptors and Pelicans could be able to put together the cleanest packages without requiring a third or fourth team on the deal.
Both teams control their first-round draft picks seven years later. The Raptors could be able to set up a deal around Scottie Barnes while the Pelicans could offer Brandon Ingram. They also have Zion Williamson, but once he’s inked the intended rookie extension, which he agreed to on Saturday (per ESPN), he can’t be traded to the Nets while Ben Simmons is on the list.
Among the other stars that fit this category are Mitchell, Adebayo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Michael Porter Jr., Jayson Tatum and Darius Garland (assuming he signs his agreement).
The Athletic reported that the Nets responded to the Timberwolves’ interest by asking about Towns or Anthony Edwards, implying they could be open to the idea of transferring Simmons. If that’s the case, it would open the door to Jazz’s Mitchell as well.
Mitchell is a 25-year-old New Yorker who has long been wanted by the Knicks. He played his AAU ball for both The City and Riverside Hawks and was raised in the Mets’ clubhouse because his eponymous father was the team’s longtime director of player relations. Mitchell has been omnipresent at Citi Field for the past few weeks, including Saturday.
Marks and Tsai will not rush the process. The Durant trade is their only chance to continue the arduous reconstruction. But with all of the league GMs coming to Las Vegas after the July 4th weekend for the summer league (Durant announced his move from the Thunder to the Warriors on July 4, 2016), the market could be thawing soon.
According to Hoopshype, the Nets have withdrawn the qualifying bid for Kessler Edwards. Edwards will become a restricted free agent but the Nets still have his non-bird rights in talks with the 21-year-old forward.