Borough Of Brooklyn Emits Collective Sigh With News Of KD’s Return To The Nets.
A collective sigh of relief could be felt throughout the borough of Brooklyn on Tuesday morning. After a disappointing 2021-22 campaign and an offseason that had the potential to obliterate the team’s championship window, the Nets will be running it back this season.
The team, through General manager Sean Marks, put out a statement on Tuesday announcing that management (Owner Joseph Tsai, Clara Wu Tsai, Marks and Head Coach Steve Nash) met with disgruntled superstar Kevin Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles on Monday. They “agreed to move forward” with their partnership, thereby ending the demoralizing saga that had the franchise frozen until they could find a way to honor Durant’s previously reported trade request without destroying everything the team built up.
Two weeks ago, such a rekindling would have been thought impossible. Durant’s team leaked an ultimatum whereby he would only return to the Nets if they fired Marks and Nash, a ploy that was quickly shot down by Tsai.
There were ample concerns that Durant, who signed as a free agent in the summer of 2019 along with friends Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, could have followed through on his threat. The last person Nets fans wanted to see KD vacationing with this month was James Harden, who owns a patent on how to force a team to trade you by acting out. Since Durant was already paid about a quarter of his 2022-23 salary, he could have engaged in a hold-in, refusing to play like current teammate Ben Simmons did in Philadelphia last season.
That was just one of a few options that would have been disastrous for Brooklyn. Fortunately, that’s all now in the rearview mirror.
It’s been a while since Nets fans had a stretch as good as this. Over the weekend, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Nets have told teams that they are not interested in trading Irving and that Simmons, who hasn’t played a game since June 2021 and is recovering from microdiscectomy surgery (while simultaneously dealing with his mental health issues), has been cleared to play 3-on-3 and should be prepared for training camp in a month.
The KD news, though, changes everything. With Simmons and sharpshooter Joe Harris returning from injuries and wings Royce O’Neal and T.J. Warren (if healthy) added to the mix, the Nets are almost as equipped as any team to rise above the Eastern Conference.
I used “almost” because the roster is incomplete, thanks to the paralysis created by the uncertainty surrounding their stars. The Nets count just 13 players under contract, with Edmond Sumner only partially guaranteed, and one two-way player. The team hasn’t even announced any Exhibit 10 training camp additions. As I mentioned a month ago (‘Under Construction” Sign On Nets Roster Remains With KD and Kyrie Still In Limbo (substack.com)), the extra roster slots were needed because any trade involving KD would have surely returned multiple players. And when you’re paying luxury taxes, the cost of accepting players that required cuts becomes prohibitive.
Well, now that KD has recommitted to the franchise (and reportedly not just for this season, but for the next four years as per the approximately $194 million contract extension he signed last year), Marks is free to fill in the holes. The Nets are thin at the 5 and could use another true point guard to insure against the inevitable Irving absences. And you can never have enough 3-and-D wings.
Obviously, the pickings are slim this late in the offseason game, so we’re more likely to see filler until Marks can find a suitable trade partner. Among the available are Ben McLemore, Carmelo Anthony, Dennis Schroder, and Hassan Whiteside, though it would be better if Marks brought in a center who could space the floor. Hey, Blake Griffin is still on the market—if KD can forgive and forget, maybe Griffin will get over his benching in the Nets’ first-round playoff loss to Boston.
Finally, I’d like to give a shout to all those NBA teams who thought they could take advantage of their leverage over Brooklyn in the Durant trade talks. Without their lowball efforts, it probably wouldn’t have given the parties the opportunity to hash things out.
I don’t know if KD is wired like Michael Jordan in that he looks for/needs extra motivations, but I’m hoping Durant torches all those lesser players (Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Boston’s Marcus Smart, et al) who were deemed “untouchable” in potential trades this season. Like I also wrote earlier this month (Analysis On Nets Prospective Durant Deals Disrespectful To All-Time Great (substack.com)), what disrespect.
Nets fans know who he is. We are grateful that, with reasonable health, the team will again have something to play for this season.