Kevin Durant reiterated his trade request to the Brooklyn Nets over the weekend, informing Joe Tsai, the team’s owner, that he needed to choose between the All-NBA star or the pairing of general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
During the face-to-face meeting, Durant told Tsai that he does not have faith in the team’s direction, Charania reported.
Later Monday night, Tsai responded in a statement on Twitter, saying: “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”
For Brooklyn, Durant’s dual dissatisfaction in both the coaching and the team’s vision — after it worked to orient both those facets of the organization around Durant — represents a marked departure from his apparent stance when he re-signed with the team one year ago, agreeing to a four-year, $198 million contract.
It’s also a dramatic pivot on Durant’s comments after the team was eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics. At that time, Durant was adamant in his belief that Nash was the right person for the job.
“I mean, come on, now,” Durant said. “Yeah (I believe that). Steve’s been dealt a crazy hand the last two years. He’s had to deal with so much stuff as a head coach, a first-time coach: trades, injuries, COVID, it’s just a lot of stuff he’s had to deal with and I’m proud of how he’s focused and his passion for us. We all continue to keep developing over the summer and see what happens.”
When hiring Nash, the guiding directive was to find someone who could connect with Durant, leading Brooklyn to pursue a candidate who had worked with him in Golden State. It’s not clear what shifted Durant’s perspective on the coach, though at times in their first-round loss against the Celtics, Nash’s coaching decisions — namely the lack of adjustments he made — came under fire.
Durant has issued fewer public comments on the team’s construction, but the Nets themselves have been diligent about hastily assembling a contender around him — sometimes to their detriment. The Nets swung big on the ultimately doomed Big 3 experiment of adding James Harden to their Durant-Kyrie Irving duo, an arrangement that saw the three stars only play together for 16 games. Harden was subsequently dealt at the trade deadline last season for another maligned star, Ben Simmons, who had been embroiled in an untenable situation with the Philadelphia 76ers as well.
Simmons did not end up playing for the Nets, stemming from a combination of back issues and mental health struggles. The Nets, according to Charania, are incredibly high on Simmons’ return to play following his recovery from back surgery, viewing him as a perfect complement to Durant and Irving.
Beyond that trio, the Nets sought to round out their roster with complementary pieces this off-season, trading for Royce O’Neale, bringing back Patty Mills and Nic Claxton while also signing T.J. Warren. Though the moves lack the lustre of what the Nets did last summer, the team, according to Charania, believes it has assembled a championship-contending core.
Still, the moves do not appear to be enough to persuade Durant, who is resolute in wanting a change of scenery heading into his 16th season.
How the Nets navigate the latest ultimatum in a saga that has consumed much of the NBA off-season, remains to be seen, though it is hard to envision a scenario in which the superstar expressing his explicit dissatisfaction leads to more leverage for Brooklyn in trade talks.
Since the trade request, rumours have swirled around nearly every team in the league, depending on the day, but have solidified around three teams in particular: the Celtics, the Toronto Raptors, and the Miami Heat. These three, Charania reported, remain the primary candidates to acquire Durant, however Tsai has “made clear privately that they will take every last asset from a team” that engages with them in a trade.
Previous reports have indicated that the Nets have been steadfast in wanting Scottie Barnes from the Raptors, a possibility the team has has no interest in. Similarly, in Boston, rumours that Jaylen Brown may be involved in trade scenarios never materialized.
The Nets’ rigid stance and sky-high threshold for a deal may prolong the saga into the start of the season, a choice that could have compounding effects on the rest of Brooklyn’s team and its hopes to make a meaningful dent in the Eastern Conference. Across the league, Charania reported, others have wondered whether Durant could miss training camp if no trade develops.