The dysfunctional Nets have only one choice: Trade Kevin Durant
Steve Nash was dismissed, Sean Marks was disheveled and Kyrie Irving has his fingerprints on dismantling yet another team with championship aspirations.
That’s three, if you’re keeping count.
This is why Kevin Durant understood this dysfunction wasn’t gonna change, that this powder keg of bad ingredients was always due to explode and he tried to get ahead of the posse in asking out of Brooklyn.
If Durant backed down from his summer trade demand only because he had to, what has occurred over the first two weeks of this season would give him hope that his worst fears aren’t reality?
If nothing else, players know when they’re in a burning house, even if they don’t publicly admit it. And Durant has been in the penthouse many times over to know this has no chance of turning around.
Trading him isn’t something the Nets appear to be considering, but Marks should revisit it if he truly wants to operate in the best interests of the organization. Perhaps foolishly, Marks believes Ime Udoka can rescue his franchise — the same way Marks is rescuing Udoka from the shame of misconduct in Boston.
He claims he took no input from the players but any man with sense didn’t have to — Irving didn’t respect this coach (or any, probably), and Durant made his feelings known over the summer.
Marks had no answers for Irving in the wake of his latest mess, only that the team is conferring with the Anti-Defamation League on how to proceed, and that Irving wouldn’t be speaking to the media for the next few days.
It felt like a hint that his disastrous news conference from Saturday, when he was contentious at the notion of being questioned about posting tweets containing an antisemitic movie, would be repeated.
Even if Udoka was a sterling candidate, this is the mess you want your new guy walking into?
“We’re looking for somebody to have poise, charisma, accountability,” Marks said. “We’re not a finished product. We’re not playing up to our expectations or where we should be, so you hope this new coach can come in here and put this group in the best possible place to succeed.”
In some way, it’s a perfect match of two sides, promising beginnings but internally flawed. Udoka and his brand of brutal honesty and connection with the underachieving Boston Celtics helped turn them around after Jan. 1, resulting in a trip to the NBA Finals.
Does anyone see an NBA Finals roster with these Brooklyn Nets? Nash walked the plank, perhaps too inexperienced and too in over his head to handle all of the drama in his short time.
But there’s hardly any coach who can take this roster through a stacked Eastern Conference, even if Durant is still at the top tier of individual players, alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry.
He’s still uncommonly brilliant and that basketball brilliance deserves to be on a more prominent display than a team with no present and no future, it seems. Whether it was his role in helping choose Nash as a head coach or partnering with the destructive, distrusting Irving or committing to the Nets for another four years when he didn’t have to, he’s backed into a corner without aid.
“I’m certainly not proud of the situation we find ourselves in. I would like to turn ESPN or the TV on and not find you talking about us, in that manner,” Marks said. “I’d like to get back to basketball.”
But the basketball is ugly and it would put the focus on the poor on-floor product that has led to this, being nearly at the bottom of all the main defensive categories and on full display in the Nets’ fourth-quarter collapse against the Bulls in the immediate aftermath.
It seemed like the recent drama with Irving on Saturday night was the only thing preventing Nash from being fired Sunday, league sources told Yahoo Sports, but Irving can’t help Durant save this vision of taking over New York with victories and vibes from disintegrating.
The Irving sabbatical is coming. Set a watch to it. He’s due for an absence and maybe, just maybe, he’ll let the team know this time.
Or maybe not.
And that’s the reason the Nets should do the right thing here, start recouping draft picks and young players by sending Durant to a place where he can be best maximized.
The Nets made Durant acquiesce over the summer, especially after Utah’s Danny Ainge got the farm for Rudy Gobert, driving up the expected return for Durant. No team was willing to pay the freight considering how bad things looked.
They look worse, but Durant could be rejuvenated in a new zip code and perhaps thankful he escaped from the NBA’s Arkham Asylum and its version of Two-Face. He’s still productive, but he and Irving are as bad a match on the floor as they are off it, it seems.
Irving is a great soloist, but he can’t maximize Durant and Durant shouldn’t have to be in a position to be a connector — that was the beauty of James Harden when he was right (man, how long ago was that?).
Irving can’t be bargained with, won’t blend in or back down because he sees it as weakness and will set afire everything he touches. Then he’ll walk away smoking a cigarette while it burns, Angela Bassett-style.
But while there looks to be more contenders than ever and only Milwaukee is wearing a championship scent early, every team with Champagne dreams should be calling Marks to see if they can acquire Durant.
And while on the subject, Marks has to own plenty of this, even though Irving is providing a decent bit of cover. The Nets are awash with 6-foot-3 guards but lack athleticism on the wings and legit size and girth at the rim. The Harden disaster was compounded by trading for a player in Ben Simmons who can very well be broken — having shown none of the flashes of an impact player, no growth and now possibly, no health.
So much drama has occurred in a compressed period, from Harden acting up to get to Brooklyn, to acting up to get out once he saw Irving wasn’t going to get vaccinated. In between that, there was Harden’s injury, and Irving’s injury in the 2021 playoffs that left Durant all alone in that series against Milwaukee.
And he looks all alone now, not just a man without a country but a man too good for the one he’s at.
The Nets aren’t winning games or selling tickets or selling hope, so it’s time to end this joke of an experiment. But they won’t, they’ll dig themselves into another public relations hole with this Udoka explanation — because unlike Irving, he’ll have to answer some uncomfortable questions when it’s official, and even then a large segment of fans in Brooklyn and beyond will feel unseen.
And this is what Marks is giving Durant, as he’s stewarding these precious years of Durant’s career.
Durant is being forced to guard centers now, which doesn’t seem like the ideal situation for a man who’s had an Achilles injury and MCL injury in the past four years. In Golden State, those instances felt like a situational luxury, a 7-footer with long arms on a defensive juggernaut.
Now, it feels like a necessity for a much older man who now has to look to the remaining years of his prime and how to preserve them.
Durant could very well be equally blessed and cursed. He looks like the stable one in the face of chaos, but when there’s too much stability and minimal drama, he has to create some noise.
Right now, it’s time for a boom box and a bullhorn before Durant is wasted one more night.