Kevin Durant could still stay with Nets even if Kyrie Irving breaks out


Kevin Durant could still stay with Nets even if Kyrie Irving breaks out

Rumble, which would challenge Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant if Kyrie Irving left the Nets, was the biggest story Thursday night in the 2022 NBA draft.

However, Durant reportedly didn’t tell the Nets he would ask for a trade, just a map of how they would plan to fight after Irving.

Of course, that could all be putting the cart before the horse. Irving and the Nets are believed to still be looking for common ground to keep him in Brooklyn, although the Mercurial Guard are looking for a longer guaranteed deal and the team prefers a shorter one. Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai agree on the matter.

The sides reached an impasse in negotiations, and multiple outlets reported that if Irving leaves, Durant – who arrived as a package with his longtime friend in 2019 – would follow suit in a catastrophic worst-case scenario for the Nets, one that the Rockets undoubtedly will would enjoy.

But ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that it was not a foregone conclusion.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving
Getty Images

“KD wanting to stay with the Nets doesn’t necessarily depend on Kyrie Irving leaving. That when he goes he wants to see what the squad could still be like, how it could be reshaped, how it could still be a championship contender,” he said. “[Durant’s] Get started with this new four-year contract. This is not the transfer portal. You can’t say where you want to go. So if he’s decided on a trade and wanted to and asked for a trade – which I’m told he hasn’t told the Nets he will do it or is willing to do it – he probably won’t say much have where he goes.

“So that has to be part of it [Durant’s] thinking about asking out of brooklyn. But right now, I still think there’s a way for the Nets, for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, to find a way forward together. But it’s murky, and it’s uncertain. Listen, the future of this Nets organization will very well be decided here in the next few days to a week.”

Irving has until Wednesday to pick up his $36 million player option for next season. He could turn it down and become an unrestricted free agent, signing with any team that can afford it.

And therein lies the catch.

With no competitor with significant leeway — the Lakers could offer him a $6 million taxpayer waiver or a $30 million pay cut — Irving’s options are limited and his best bargaining chip comes from his friend Durant, who threatens to dump him to follow the door .

But there is a perception among some league staff that this is an artfully crafted and well-coordinated bluff.

Irving would either prefer a long-term deal to stay in Brooklyn or go through a sign-and-trade so he can actually get a contract. He gave the Nets a list of favorite targets – the Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks and 76ers. The Athletic reported that “Kyrie Irving is now expected to find a home shortly via an opt-in and trade”.

A sign-and-trade would make it difficult for the team to get Irving. Signing up and waiting a day would remove that hurdle and make a deal easier.

But not all teams that want Irving want him in return.

The Knicks, for example, have been actively clearing cap space. They traded Kemba Walker and a first-rounder to the Pistons on Thursday, but it was Jalen Brunson, not Irving, at stake.

The Nets went into the draft without a single pick in their building (they delayed the first-round pick they got from the 76ers in a trade between James Harden and Ben Simmons to next year). Not only did they give Houston their first-rounders from 2024 and 2026 for Harden, but they also gave Houston the right to trade in 2023, 2025, and 2027.

They’re also over the cap even with Irving leaving as a free agent, so they’d have to be creative to keep a winner around Durant and Simmons. These are the talks Durant will request from Marks. Tsai liked a tweet supporting his GM that included “Team and culture > any one player.”

The Nets signed a two-way deal with undrafted 6-foot-5, 210-pound Wake Forest guard Alondes Williams, according to The Athletic. He has a large frame at medium range and averaged 18 points, 6.4 boards and 5.2 assists. Williams was tapped as a second-round pick in mock drafts.

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