For the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant’s ultimatum is disappointment, but also the consequence of putting together a superstar team with so many clashing personalities.
Looking back, it’s hard to blame the Brooklyn Nets for their aspirations. Winning a championship requires risks, and while building through the draft is a method for long-term success, it doesn’t carry the same immediate or star-studded appeal.
So when Brooklyn had the opportunity to do just that three years ago with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it took it in a heartbeat. It would be hard not to. Irving and Durant’s levels of play over the last several years at that point showed their potential together was unlimited.
Meanwhile, in the current landscape of the league, multiple superstars are needed. LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The list goes on.
In bringing the two together, Brooklyn’s aggressiveness grew. That dynasty-hopeful attitude reached a crescendo when, on a chill January day in 2021, they acquired James Hard from the Houston Rockets in a four-team trade.
Between the three, you’ll find 29 All-Star selections, 20 All-NBA selections, seven scoring champions, three NBA championships, and two MVPs. The stage was set for a similar — or perhaps better — run kin to Golden State’s from 2015 to 2018.
But there’s a price to that greatness. And unfortunately, it came much sooner than expected for Brooklyn, which now finds itself at a pivotal point in franchise history.
“Durant is still doing more or less what he was brought to Brooklyn to do: declare his intentions and outline exactly what he wants. Sometimes that looks like leadership. Sometimes it looks like this.”
That point came over the last weekend when meeting with team owner Joe Tsai, Durant not only reiterated his request to be traded, but gave an ultimatum: it was him, or the pairing of general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash.
On Twitter, Tsai seemed to suggest he isn’t ready to budge. “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets,” he said.
Still, as the Ringer’s Rob Mahoney notes, that statement isn’t anything but a given due to the noncommittal nature of the league, in addition to the power top players hold over team-building and decision-making.
“Does [Durant] really want Marks and Nash gone? Or is he just looking to send a shock through the Nets’ system?” Mahoney questioned. It’s feasible Durant isn’t ready to make a move just yet – the team still holds a solid core, with Ben Simmons and Irving more than enough to form a viable championship contender.
Still, this scenario happening isn’t coming out of the blue. In fact, the Nets should have expected this. Durant has made fan-angering, surprising moves before – he joined an already stellar Golden State team in 2016, and would go on to win two Finals with them.
In the NBA, fluidity is always a possibility, especially when mixing highly volatile stars together. They may be the ideal teammates and friends one minute, and the next will see them making backhanded remarks, inconsistent play, and media speculation.
What this current era of NBA basketball is showing us is that going all-in — whether it’s with cap space or all of your loot — to go acquire two or three of the top talented players in the league and having either underperforming infrastructure or a complete lack of roster depth, you’re doing nothing favorable for your organization.”
How a Durant trade would play out is anyone’s guess. The Boston Celtics have been the most frequently linked team, with a potential trade including several valued picks and players, including Jaylen Brown.
Other teams in the mix could include the Philadelphia Sixers, Miami Heat, and Phoenix Suns. But regardless of where he goes, the Nets have little chance of recouping anything that would be considered equal — much less greater — value for the superstar.
It also severely hurts the team’s chances of a championship now. Irving is a proven superstar, but Simmons hasn’t played in an NBA game since June of 2021. He also struggled with shooting and confidence, making the process of fixing him much more complicated.
With that, it’s no doubt a disappointing end to a situation that had the prospects of being an all-time great squad. At the same time, it’s a consequence the team knew could happen due to the lack of loyalty both Durant and Irving have exhibited at times.
It also begs the question: will teams now see the fatal makings of Brooklyn’s plans and opt not to attempt similar superstar teams? “Assembling a superteam is something very, very few organizations can do,” a senior league executive told ESPN. “And we’re seeing that even fewer can actually pull it off because superstars aren’t enough — it has to be the right superstars in the right culture.”
So, it turns out the Nets may make history after all, changing the dynamics of the NBA. Just in a way the fans might not enjoy remembering in so many years.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at email@example.com.