Report: Nets working with Kevin Durant to find a trade out of Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) reacts after making a 3-point basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (Hakim Wright Sr./AP)

The Brooklyn Nets are reportedly working with Kevin Durant on finding a trade for the franchise star, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, after the former MVP requested to be dealt earlier in the day.

Durant, who’s turning 34 before next season, is one of the NBA’s all-time greats, with 12 all-star appearances, 10 All-NBA selections, four scoring titles and two Finals MVPs — among several other accolades — to his name.

While he has listed the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat as desired destinations, the Nets plan to move him wherever they get the best return and hope for a historic package, according to Wojnarowski.

Durant recently signed an extension with Brooklyn that kicks in this upcoming season. The contract will pay him $194.22 million over four years.

Last season, he produced 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists over the course of 55 games with the Nets, who were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics. In that series, Durant struggled against the Celtics’ defence, scoring 26.8 points a game but shooting 38.6 per cent from the floor — well below his playoff career average of 47.6.

Despite his uncharacteristic struggles and his age, Durant is still widely recognized as a top player in the league.

His decision to request a trade comes just days after running mate Kyrie Irving opted-in to his $36.9-million player option for the 2022-23 season. Irving and the Nets were previously at an impasse over his future, according to The Athletic‘s Shams Charania, with the seven-time all-star seeking a max contract while the Nets preferred a shorter-term deal due to his unreliability over the last two seasons.

Irving then reportedly received permission to seek a sign-and-trade but ultimately opted-in to his contract on Monday. Despite being under contract, Irving could be traded along with Durant as Wojnarowski reports the entire Nets roster will be available to discuss in deals ahead of a Durant trade.

The Nets have already been active in the wake of Durant’s request, reportedly trading a first-round pick to the Utah Jazz for Royce O’Neal just moments after the Durant news was reported.

After Irving opted-in to his contract, neither he nor Durant had contact with the franchise, and Brooklyn believed Durant may eventually demand a trade, according to Wojnarowski.

Durant’s reported trade request happens to fall on the three-year anniversary of he and Irving announcing they were teaming up in Brooklyn, a decision that was expected to make the Nets contenders for several seasons, and marked a remarkable turnaround for the franchise which had spent years bottoming out in the wake of a short-sighted trade sacrificing futures for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

In 2019-20, Durant sat out the entire season recovering from an Achilles injury suffered with the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Irving only played 20 games that season, also due to injury, and the Nets lost in Round 1.

Then with Durant back in 2020-21, the Nets acquired James Harden from the Houston Rockets — giving up quality role players, three first-round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) — to form one of the most talented Big 3’s the NBA has ever seen.

Through those playoffs, both Irving and Harden were on and off the court nursing injuries while Durant carried the team within a literal inch of advancing to the Eastern Conference Final. The Nets ultimately fell to the eventual-champion Milwaukee Bucks in a Game 7 overtime loss in Round 2.

The Nets were among the title favourites coming into this past season, but things quickly derailed due to Irving’s decision to not get vaccinated disallowing him from playing New York state for the vast majority of the campaign.

Amid Irving’s absenteeism and the incessant attention it drew to the franchise, Harden demanded a trade out of Brooklyn just 13 months after moving on from Houston and was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Ben Simmons and role players in a 2022 NBA trade deadline blockbuster.

Brooklyn finished the season as the seventh seed in the East with a 44-38 record before falling to the Celtics in Round 1.

In total, the Nets have: 103 games from Irving, 90 games from Durant, two first-round exits and one second-round exit to show for since that promising day on June 30, 2019.

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