Of Martin Rogers
FOX Sports columnist
The Brooklyn Nets has arguably the best player in basketball under contract for four years. The organization has a roster good enough to have spent much of last season as the championship favorite, despite their finish.
Brooklyn has another superstar with proven ability to make a key difference and win a title. It has an owner who likes the head coach and general manager enough to give them his vocal support.
It also has, right now, the biggest mess in all of basketball to sift through, fight its way through, and somehow try to emerge from with some semblance of respectability.
Kevin Durant’s reiteration to owner Joe Tsai this week that he is determined to leave via trade unless coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks are sent packing, closely followed by Tsai’s support for that pair, muddies the waters outside of Dumbo about as they possibly could. be.
There’s no viable trade market for Durant that doesn’t see the Nets stiffed, even though he’s under contract for four more years and just $194.2 million.
Given that Rudy Gobert had cost a package of five picks (including four first-rounders) and five players when he left Utah for Minnesota, it stands to reason that Durant would be worth significantly more. However, the problem comes at the crossroads where taking a player of Durant’s value becomes pointless if you sacrifice not only the pieces that could help him to a title, but also your developmental future.
Pound-for-pound, Durant is probably worth eight first-rounders. However, no one is going to grab it, even if they had to use it. Not the Miami Heat, who are among the teams he wants to join, and not just anyone.
This leaves Brooklyn with a major headache, an impending decision, and with the unpredictable nature of Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons and all their quirks at the top of the depth chart if Durant leaves.
What Kevin Durant’s ultimatum means
Colin Cowherd breaks down what Kevin Durant’s ultimatum means for both parties, including how they should proceed in the next KD offseason chapter.
Meanwhile, after waving goodbye to James Harden in the Simmons trade, the Nets — like the rest of us — saw Durant party with Harden at a Travis Scott concert in London the past few days. Try to figure it out.
The whole situation is weird and unconventional, but Brooklyn now learns that having to answer to the whims of a superstar is no fun, and Durant leads them on a merry-go-round.
“I thought KD should try to run back with Brooklyn,” former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker said on FS1’s “First Things First.” “[Now] it’s not going to be possible. When you get a coach and GM who seem to want to do whatever it takes to make you happy, contractually and to do everything you can on the field, I don’t see why you’re upset with them.
“I’m confused that KD said he would [Nash and Marks] out, because it seemed like the two guys were behind him.”
Durant has the kind of influence only the very best in the game can have. For the team on the receiving end of it, it’s a period of paralysis. Still, there isn’t much sympathy for the Nets, either around the league or among the broader NBA fan base.
KD to Nets: “Trade me or fire Steve Nash, Sean Marks”
Kevin Durant is not budging on his desire to leave Brooklyn.
This is a situation of their own making. They took their shot, didn’t do particularly well, and now they’re paying the price.
“No one feels sorry for the Brooklyn Nets,” wrote USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt. “Not before [Tsai]. Not before [Marks]. Not before [Nash].
“When a team abandons a promising rebuilding effort for a fast track to title contention built around mercurial superstars and the fallout is catastrophic, the empathy meter doesn’t register.”
It’s just the way it goes. Sometimes big, splashy moves work for an elite player. Just ask the Toronto Raptors, who added a year with Kawhi Leonard to the greatest performance in franchise history.
Winning a title without one of the best players in the sport isn’t really a thing in this current age, which is why teams are trying it this way. But there haven’t been many such swings that have imploded as dramatically and as quickly as the Nets.
The Boston Celtics remain in contention as a trade partner, as do the Raptors, but the kind of package required to land Tsai is a price unlikely to be met. Tsai also didn’t like having his feet held to the fire over Nash and Marks, releasing a statement supporting them and insisting that he would “make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”
For now, one holdout remains, one with no easy closing date due to Durant’s contract length.
Durant, who has decided this is not the place for him and with only so many shots left at a third title, is trying to help himself. The Nets are helpless, stuck in a position they know can’t possibly work out for them.
They’ve gone from a star-studded force ready to be unleashed to a disaster waiting to happen. No viable strategic moves to make, no real leverage over Durant, and most of all, absolutely no sin from all the teams who are thankful this isn’t happening to them.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Yyou can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.
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