It’s the biggest free agency in Nets history and perhaps one of the biggest free agencies in NBA history. Period.
The Nets have been linked to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. They’ve made it to a point where the biggest names in the game are considering them — and they’re confident they can land them. Worst case, their fall-back plan is a 23-year-old All-Star in D’Angelo Russell, the face of the team who led them into the playoffs this past season.
So, there are levels to this madness.
Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson came in with a chip on their shoulder. People questioned why they would even accept the Nets’ job considering how bad the situation looked. Marks has said he wouldn’t have taken a similar job anywhere but New York. They came in, remained humble. The only thing that was promised during the three-year rebuild was hard work and hopes of improvement. They made the playoffs and showed they have competent pieces to build a team around superstars.
Like Kevin Durant. Like Kyrie Irving.
The fact that I’m even typing that sentence feels surreal. When Marks and Atkinson took over three years back, the Nets were 21-61 -- 14th in Eastern Conference; They had zero picks of their own in the first— and none at all in the second— over the next five years. Their most expendable assets were Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young,
Now, they have several things worth pitching.
First and foremost, they were a winning club that made the playoffs with a group of mostly young-20-somethings. They have a revered performance team, led by Zach Weatherford, a former Navy Seal trainer. Their medical staff is top-notch, led by Dr. Riley Williams III and Dr. Martin O’Malley – the doctor who performed Durant’s past two surgeries. New minority-stake owner Joe Tsai is the executive vice-chairman and co-founder of Alibaba, the China-based e-commerce company. His wealth is estimated at $9.4 billion, according to Bloomberg Business.
Do I need to talk about the marketing potential in Brooklyn?
It started with a vision. A culture had to be built and the term shouldn’t to be tossed around like it’s a simple concept. A culture has layers to it and it’s more than what one might think, but the one thing you can confidently say about a culture is that it starts and finishes with the people inside of it. The leaders are most important. Their morals, personalities, discipline … it was established from the beginning. It was a team looking for blue-collar, high character, cohesive and family-like attitudes. No egos. Sorta like Brooklyn.
The guys left under contract, excluding Russell (RFA), are mostly Nets products, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa — all drafted by the Nets. Spencer Dinwiddie was plucked out of the G-League and Taureen Prince was recently traded to the Nets. At 25-years-old, he’s a player they’re quite very fond of.
They’re playing a tricky game and it comes after an incredible turnaround season. Nobody expected them to be in this position. They’ve come a far way to be atop the lists of two of the biggest names on the market.
Yet, they aren’t perfect. They traded away picks to free up space for this moment (but did get one back on Draft Night in a deal one NBA insider described as surprising). Alienating a fan-favorite All-Star wouldn’t be a good look if their ‘Plan A’ or ‘Plan B’ fall through. These things do matter ... and yes, they are aware of them.
But will they matter if they land a big name and become a top team in the East?
WHAT WE KNOW
- Several sources have told NetsDaily that they expect Kyrie Irving to be playing for the Brooklyn Nets come October. Some went as far as saying it sounds like a “done deal” and both Woj and Shams came close to confirming it Saturday. Of course, this is all moot until pen hits paper (or iPad). Kyrie wants Kevin Durant to join him. That’s why Brooklyn’s been linked to KD’s buddy DeAndre Jordan. Kyrie is leaning towards Brooklyn and yes, it sounds like a done deal, but there are factors to this free agency that make it unique. All it takes is one turn and the rest is a free-for-all.
- The Nets possess confidence in their chances to land Irving and Durant. The two have been discussing their futures for a little while now and by potentially nabbing Kyrie early, they believe this will only help in their pitch to KD. After Durant’s Achilles injury, the Nets medical staff became a point of emphasis. Now, Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that they’ll be one of four teams meeting with KD. We heard that back in April. And, for whatever it’s worth, Vegas has them with the best odds (even) to land Durant.
- D’Angelo Russell wants to be back and the Nets would welcome him back with open arms… if they miss on the big names such as Kyrie Irving. It may not sound all too flattering, but Russell matured in Brooklyn and grew with Atkinson and the Nets organization. He’ll get paid no matter where he goes and his future is bright, but if Kyrie comes, the belief is that Russell is unlikely to return. If Kyrie takes a last-second turn, the Nets should still have time to match any offers thrown his way.
- There have been questions about whether they want to bring Kyrie in alone if Durant isn’t with him ... but they seemed to be resolved. In the event that it isn’t, who would be their back up plan? Think along the lines of Tobias Harris, with hope that they wouldn’t have to max him out. Julius Randle has also been linked. Otherwise, there hasn’t been much chatter other than their primary focus: Irving and Durant.
It’s been a long, strange off-season.
Reports have contradicted themselves. There’s information coming from all different directions, a product of where the NBA is in 2019. Headlines, prime time talk, social media attention… all of that. Different information gets leaked for different reasons by different people in the NBA food chain. It doesn’t mean it’s “fake news” or anything like that, but the NBA is an entertainment business. Remember that ... always.
They Nets are doing what they think is right to better their team. They’ve gained a ton of credibility by just being in the conversation, nonetheless leading the charge into moves that could be “transformational” in the words of one “highly placed source” quoted by Brian Lewis.
They’re ready and they’re confident.
Sure, there are risks behind everything they’re doing. They’ve finally flipped their cards by trading picks to get cap space. Russell is now, for better or worse seen as the back-up plan. Players from last year’s bench dance team might be gone. A few already are.
And yet, with the way things are looking, these risks seem to outweigh the consequences. Kyrie Irving likely brings 50+ wins to Brooklyn, something a Nets team has accomplished exactly once in their history. Irving and Durant bring championship talk to Brooklyn.
In other words.. brace yourselves.