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It was on July 4, 2016 that Kevin Durant upended the NBA and nearly broke the internet by announcing he was leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State.
Six years later, Independence Day came and went on Monday with Durant — this time with a demand to be traded from the Nets — again holding the league hostage. And this is a drama that could play out for a while — for weeks, months or even into the season.
This time, unlike the Thunder situation, the Nets hold most, if not all, the cards. With four years left on his contract, and Kyrie Irving having opted in to the last year of his deal, the Nets have leverage and every intention of using it. And league personnel say the Nets have implied if they don’t get what they want, this could well drag on into training camp.
That might be less than ideal. It might also well be posturing because if the Nets can’t get their new Big 3 to actually buy in, it behooves them for teams to believe in their resolve. And nobody can really picture the basketball-obsessed Durant holding out or refusing to play like Ben Simmons did in Philadelphia.
It’s unclear exactly what conversations the Nets have had with Durant and Irving on the topic in recent days. Brooklyn has fielded a host of calls in regard to Durant, but just tepid interest in Irving with the Lakers seemingly the only viable suitor.
Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai had agreed to work with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman to try to trade him to one of his preferred landing spots. But in the end, Durant and Irving are expected to be moved where and when it works best for Nets management.
Miami and Phoenix are Durant’s preferred destinations. But the Heat don’t have a ton of tradeable assets, the Suns’ package is unappealing without a three- or four-team deal and Toronto — which most people around the league say has the best package to offer — is reportedly balking at including Scottie Barnes.
Golden State is interested in bringing back Durant, and the stars have talked to their former teammate and would be on board with a reunion. But The Athletic reported the Warriors sacrificing enough pieces to tempt Marks is unlikely.
With tons of offers for Durant, but none they couldn’t refuse and no rush to move him, the Nets are putting out the vibe that they could bring the forward (and maybe even Irving) into camp and see if all parties can make this work. Or if not, all play nice until a world-beating trade proposal is made.
The Lakers are desperate to move Russell Westbrook and his gargantuan $47 million contract for Irving, but are hesitating to include the multiple draft picks the Nets would want for taking on all that money.
Yahoo Sports and The Athletic reported in the past week that the Nets could solve the problem by including Joe Harris in any Irving-Westbrook swap.
How the Nets deal with Harris may be the best indicator of how they plan to proceed. He’s the longest-tenured Net, often consulted by Marks on major decisions.
“I know the Nets absolutely do not want to trade Joe under any scenario,” a league source familiar with Brooklyn’s thinking told The Post. “But there are just thousands of different ways this can play out.”
One is trying to drum up interest in Irving from the likes of Philadelphia or Dallas. Another is including Irving in a multi-team deal. Another is replacing him with Seth Curry in any Irving-Westbrook swap.
But after the Nets re-signed Patty Mills for two years, $14.2 million, and used not only a first-round pick but also a trade exception to bring in 3-and-D type Royce O’Neale, it bears watching what they do with Harris. Keeping him could indicate a retooling on the fly to try to stay competitive. Dumping him signals a tear-it-down-to-the-studs rebuild.