Kevin Durant does his own thing. His former Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors teams know this first-hand.
At first glance Wednesday’s report from Kristian Winfield of the NY Daily News that Durant has not talked with the Nets’ brass since their first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs wouldn’t seem like a big deal.
But there’s a whole heck of a lot more to this as Winfield notes in his wide-ranging report on the situation in Brooklyn right now. It starts and ends with embattled point guard Kyrie Irving, which could have a direct impact on how Durant’s own relationship with the Nets unfolds this summer.
“In layman’s terms, if Irving leaves the Nets, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Durant becomes frustrated with the organization’s ability to put championship pieces around him.”Kristian Winfield of the NY Daily News (May 25, 2022)
And so it goes. A Nets season that started with championship aspirations concluded back on April 25 via a four-game sweep at the hands of Irving’s former Boston Celtics team.
In between, Irving was in the news for missing a good chunk of the regular season due to his stance against getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Durant found himself sidelined for 21 games due to a foot injury.
Meanwhile, the two-time NBA Finals MVP’s relationship with James Harden soured so much that Brooklyn dealt the latter to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package centering around a player in Ben Simmons who did not suit up for one game with the Nets.
This is how it happens. A potentially dynastic Nets team turning into a bottom-end playoff contender within three years of Irving and Durant making their move to the Big Apple. Drama percolating behind the scenes. Egos overtaking the team-building mentality.
Kevin Durant situation with the Brooklyn Nets could blow up
When KD earned his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP with the Golden State Warriors back in June of 2018, no one could have imagined that his career in the Bay Area would come to an end roughly a calendar year later. A spat with Draymond Green and a sense that Stephen Curry was more adored than him within the Warriors’ fan base led to this departure.
Fast forward four years, and things could quickly spiral out of control between one of the greatest players in modern history and his organization. The backdrop here being Irving’s questionable future with the Nets after him and Durant came to Broadway as a packaged deal during a simpler time back in the summer of 2019.
Marks is referencing the fact that Irving played a mere 29 regular-season games in 2021-22 due to his COVID-19 vaccine stance. Meanwhile, more recent reports suggest that the Nets’ brass is attempting to distance itself from the six-time All-Star point guard.
Where does Durant tie in to this? Well, it’s rather straightforward. Irving has a $36.50 million player option for the 2022-23 season. He could opt out of said contract and become a free agent. Even if Irving opts in, it wouldn’t be anywhere near a surprise if the Nets attempted to trade him. This wouldn’t sit well with Durant.
“Last summer I got a tip I didn’t want to believe: A source familiar with the inner workings of the Nets roster told me James Harden would leave Brooklyn. Followed by Kyrie Irving, then ultimately Kevin Durant. “Winfield in his report on the Nets’ situation
One domino has fallen with Durant acting as one of the core pieces that pushed Harden’s trade to the 76ers back on February 10. Another domino could soon fall with Irving and the Nets taking part in an ugly divorce.
Kevin Durant contract situation and the Brooklyn Nets
Surprisingly, Durant took very little time last summer to sign a four-year, $194.22 million super-max extension with the Nets. Said deal has him under contact through the 2025-26 season. All the while, both Harden and Irving refused to sign extensions.
Two years removed from tearing his Achilles, Kevin Durant made a career decision. Get the big money right now while taking up a bet that Harden and Irving would follow suit. That obviously wasn’t the case.
Fast forward roughly 10 months, and Durant finds himself in a much different situation. An enigma in and of himself, Ben Simmons could end up being KD’s top running partner for the Nets next season. Simmons didn’t play throughout the entire 2021-22 season due to a rift with his former 76ers issues and some mental health issues. He can’t be relied on. The Nets know that. They are already frustrated with him.
- Kevin Durant stats (2021-22): 29.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.4 APG, 52% shooting, 38% 3-point
As you can see, the 33-year-old Durant is still playing at an elite clip. He can be the leader on a championship contender. But in today’s NBA, it seemingly takes multiple stars to compete.
Just look at the conference finals as a prime example. The two favorites to earn a trip to the championship round both have multiple stars.
Durant’s former Warriors team boasts Stephen Cury, Klay Thompson, and emerging Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. The Boston Celtics have Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.
It’s a fascinating stage to be set this offseason. Three years removed from his exit in Golden State, Durant could very well witness his former team winning the NBA title without him. In the process, his current team seems to be in shambles.
In an NBA that continues to see star players hold all of the power, it’s not implausible to believe that Kevin Durant might just come to the conclusion that the Nets are not worth saving. That this roster built to be the latest super-team has disappointed at a level we’ve never seen before. And in the process, he simply asks out of dodge.
Because, as we all know, KD’s motto. “I’m me, I do me, and I chill.”