Does Kevin Durant want to stay with Nets following Kyrie Irving trade?
Does Nets star Kevin Durant want to stay in Brooklyn after the Kyrie Irving trade?
That’s the biggest question in the NBA at the moment.
And Durant’s head coach, Jacque Vaughn, wasn’t going to try to answer it on Monday night.
“I’m not going to speculate and get in Kevin’s mind at all,” he said when asked about Durant’s desire to remain with the Nets. “I’m not even going to try to do that.”
But Vaughn knows the easiest way to keep Durant in Brooklyn.
“At the end of the day, Kevin wants to win. That’s always been our goal. He wants to win at shootaround. He wants to win any game of the week. That’s why he loves to play. That’s why he wants to play 82 games. That will be our holy grail,” Vaughn said Monday. “We’ll continue to try to put a group out that wins. Until there’s something for me to be concerned about, then I’ll carry on business as usual.”
Vaughn’s right. If the 2022-23 Nets can compete for a title, it probably decreases the odds of Durant requesting a trade at the end of the season.
Like Vaughn, I have no interest in speculating about whether Durant wants to stay or go. Maybe he requests a trade prior to Thursday’s deadline. But let’s assume that he doesn’t.
If he stays and the Nets make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals – or NBA Finals – it’s fair to assume that Durant would have a harder time asking for a trade at season’s end.
That’s what makes the next three days pivotal for Nets GM Sean Marks.
As it stands today, Brooklyn’s roster is solid. In Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith, Marks acquired players in the Irving deal who can help Brooklyn immediately.
But do the Nets have enough to compete with top teams in the Eastern Conference over a seven-game series? No.
And that’s why members of the Nets spent Monday talking to the Toronto Raptors about potential trades. SNY reported on Sunday that Brooklyn had been in touch with Toronto during the Irving trade talks. Sources confirmed that the two teams touched base on Monday. The Nets and Raptors discussed the possibility of a Fred VanVleet deal before the Irving trade became official, as Marc Stein reported.
You can be sure that the Nets will be calling the Raptors – and other teams – over the next few days as they look to upgrade the roster. (Prior to Irving’s trade request, the Nets and Atlanta Hawks continued to touch base on a John Collins deal; multiple teams spoke to Brooklyn about deals involving Joe Harris, and the Nets continued to take calls on Patty Mills).
If the Nets swing a trade that helps them make a deep postseason run, Durant is less likely to reissue his trade request. And Marks’ job security is probably bolstered.
How are the two issues related?
Remember, Durant issued an ultimatum to Joe Tsai over the summer. According to The Athletic, Durant told Tsai that he should trade him or fire Marks and then-head coach Steve Nash.
Some observers took Durant’s ultimatum as an artificial ploy to force a trade. But there has been some disconnect between Marks and Durant during their shared tenure in Brooklyn.
Durant and Irving both were put off by Marks’ public comments about Irving in the GM’s end-of-season news conference last spring, per people familiar with the matter.
Durant subsequently requested a trade. Seven weeks later, he rescinded his request.
Marks, Durant and Nash all publicly put Durant’s ultimatum and trade request behind them late last summer. So it’s fair to assume that Durant and Marks are on the same page at the moment.
Now, the Nets need to win games. They didn’t do enough winning in the Irving-Durant era. Just one playoff series win in three seasons.
Several people in the organization believe strongly that those poor results are tied directly to Irving. And it makes sense. Irving played in just 143 games over three-plus seasons. He missed time due to team suspension, injury, vaccination status and unapproved personal leave.
But Irving is with the Dallas Mavericks now. He can’t be blamed for organizational shortcomings moving forward.
It’s on everyone else – from Tsai on down – to make it work. The first test? Upgrade the roster by 3 p.m. on Thursday.