So here we are, between Woj Bombs, ready for free agency to begin in a matter of hours. The first bomb has detonated: barring anything catastrophic, Kyrie Irving who grew up modeling his game after Jason Kidd will be a Net soon.
It is shocking on so many levels. That the promise of Brooklyn as a destination, postponed because of a foolish move six years ago, now seems to ready to be fulfilled. The rebuild, as daunting as it was, seems over. As we’ve noted before, the Nets have gone from a “long, long way to go” to a “long way to go” to “WAY TO GO!”
And the curse of that foolish move back in 2013, trading away the team’s future for the league’s past, seems over. Boston, blessed with all the Nets picks, never made it to the Finals in any of those six years, losing in the first round twice, the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the second round once. Moreover, their big prize, Kyrie Irving, who don’t forget was acquired with a Nets pick, is now in New York and it didn’t cost the Nets a thing.
Irving is not without flaws. (A Boston fan would tell you that’s a nice way to saying he’s a bum, but they have their own issues.) He has enormous talent, is genuinely intelligent, a savage competitor who wants that last shot, no matter what the stage. Yes, he will complain, will let his emotions fly on the court and in interviews. Not to mention how he can change his mind.
But one has to imagine he’s been chastened by the experience in Boston and welcomes working with the point guard whisperer. After all, he wanted a new start. And he’s in a comfort zone. Born in Australia, he grew up in West Orange, a quick shot on Route 280 and the Turnpike to what was then the Continental Airlines Arena. There he watched Kidd, dazzled by his vision. He wanted to emulate Kidd’s success. Now, he has a chance to do just that, maybe more, with the same family members who accompanied him to games in the Meadowlands now able to watch him again at Barclays Center. Never underestimate the lure of home and family.
Irving’s talent is unquestioned. As we noted Saturday...
Irving is the Nets most accomplished player since Jason Kidd, with an NBA championship, Olympic and FIBA World Cup gold medals, six all-Star appearances and two All-NBA selections, including this year. He won his NBA ring and Olympic gold medal within a matter of two months in 2016. Only three other players —his then teammate LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen— had done both in the same year. He followed that up with the 2017 FIBA World Cup title, winning the MVP.
He will also be the single biggest acquisition —after Kidd and Julius Erving—in the franchise’s history.
The 27-year-old will become at once the highest paid Nets player ever, their biggest free agent signing ever and the first All-NBA player to join the franchise since the Nets traded for Deron Williams nearly a decade ago.
For comparison, the biggest free agent signings, in terms of money, in team history (before Sunday) were Jeremy Lin, $36 million over three years in 2016; Travis Outlaw, $35 million over five years in 2010; and Alonzo Mourning (before his transplant), $22 million over three years in 2003. That’s it. The $140.6 million deal Irving is expected to sign is four times more valuable than the franchise’s next biggest. (Kidd and DWill signed $100 million deals to stay with the Nets after being acquired in a trade and Richard Jefferson got $75 million coming off his rookie deal.)
He can handle the rock like no one else...
Hit the big shot...
Represent his country...
Hopefully he can also recruit the unrecruitable. We will be writing a lot more in the coming weeks, no doubt about this move. Probably ad naseum, but it is a BFD.
DLo vs. Kyrie
Something else we’ll probably get into more: Why Kyrie Irving over D’Angelo Russell?
In short, the Nets understood neither were perfect fits —Kyrie’s history of unhappiness and DLo’s immaturity come to mind. But Kyrie is the better player, six all-star appearance to one for DLo; the championship experience and not just the title (coming back from 3-1) in 2016 but three straight visits to the Finals. Kyrie, because of that success, is likely going to be a better recruiter down the road. In fact, there’s word Sunday from Alex Kennedy that he’s trying to recruit Iman Shumpert. Irving will complain, sometimes publicly and fill the tabloid back pages, like this...
At times, he may make fans fondly recall Russell’s effervescence. Still, he’s just a better bet in the Nets eyes.
DLo is three years younger than Irving and had the single best season a Nets player has had in nearly a decade. He became the face of the franchise, the guy who put fans in the seats, then with his heroics brought them out of those seats. He has more than a little touch of star quality. Aside from Irving’s superiority as a player, DLo’s immaturity was an issue, Not on the court, not in the training room, but off. His foolishness was brought to the fore once again at LaGuardia Airport in early May. It wasn’t the small amount of a substance now legal in 11 states and decriminalized in many others that was seized. It was the immaturity. One Nets insider also said he wasn’t surprised. The bust hurt him more than many understood at the time.
So, yes, the Nets believe Irving is the better player, better bet, at least for now. And no, it’s not a zero sum game. The Nets would have happily brought Russell back if Irving had said no.
KD, KD, KD!!
There is one big question. Will the Nets get Kevin Durant? There is optimism about the Nets chances. Kyrie Irving’s signing will help, of course. The two are more than close friends, we are told. They are like brothers. Another advantage: Durant wants to play in New York
But there is another asset whose value to Brooklyn isn’t that well known.
“KD really wants to play with Caris,” said one Nets insider. That’s Caris LeVert. It’s not just that the two have worked out together. A lot of players have worked out with KD, but Durant reportedly has a very high opinion of LeVert’s game. He may not be at Irving’s level, but the combination of LeVert and Irving will no doubt help.
When will we know? We would think Tuesday or Wednesday, after meetings in New York with the Nets, Knicks, Clippers and Warriors. We don’t know. Maybe he uses the July 4 weekend to mull, mull, mull. Again, we’re just guessing. Next Saturday, July 6, of course, is the day many of the trades consummated in the last two weeks become official, the first day free agents can sign, the start of the 48-hour clock on RFA offer sheets. That’s an obvious deadline.
The Nets are very close to the amount needed to sign Irving and Durant but not quite there. That could lead to a couple of scenarios being played out this week. One is not positive, as capologist Albert Nahmad tweeted Saturday...
Nets are very nearly in position to create the $70M cap room required for a 35% max (e.g., Kevin Durant) and a 30% max (e.g., Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard). They’re just a minor trade or two away (e.g., Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs).— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) June 29, 2019
For many of us, a trade like that wouldn’t be minor, particularly if it includes Kurucs!
The other possibility is that the two give up a little of their maximum contracts to make things easier for the front office ... including signing DeAndre Jordan, who is close to KD. Jordan, who averaged a double-double last season —11 and 14, is going to want more than the room exception, which will be $4.77 million.
Adrian Wojnarowski says it’s possible that Jordan could join KD, but he also noted that the 30-year-old might want to return to L.A., maybe to the Lakers.
And what happens if Durant doesn’t come to Brooklyn? Who do the Nets go after? The Nets and both Julius Randle and Tobias Harris have mutual interest, but whether that mutual interest extends to dollars and cents is the question, as is the competition. The Knicks could be big competitors for both and Harris is not unhappy in Philadelphia.
There was also a report over the weekend that the Nets could be among the teams interested in Taj Gibson, a Timberwolves free agent. Although 34, the 6’9” Gibson averaged 10 and 5 last season starting 57 games, even hitting 32 percent of his three point shots. A high character guy and a Brooklyn native, Gibson might be a guy the Nets would like. We profiled his community efforts last season.
Finally, we noticed something interesting in Woj’s description of Durant’s injury status. He wrote KD “might” miss the entire season. Might? Might! Watch this space. Woj chooses his words carefully.
With the week’s events, we figured we’d put together a new weekly feature, who’s arriving, who’s departing...
—Kyrie Irving, 6’3” PG
—Taurean Prince, 6’8” SF
—Nicolas Claxton, 7’0” PF
—Jaylen Hands, 6’3” PG
—Allen Crabbe, 6’6” SG
—Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6’7” PF
—D’Angelo Russell, 6’5” PG
In addition, the Nets tendered a qualifying offer to Theo Pinson, the 6’7” guard who was an All-G League All-Star.
This list will get longer.
A Good Read
A bit of history. Fred Kerber is supposed to be retired and living on a farm in Rhode Island! But the Post had him go back to 2010 and review the last time the Nets and Knicks competed for free agents. The class then, like this year’s, was extraordinarily gifted and deep. Kerber talked to virtually everyone in the process. Bottom line for Nets fans: The front office, then headed by Rod Thorn, thought that Jay-Z would give them an advantage in their recruiting. He didn’t. Their lack of success on the court did them in. A good lesson for Knicks fans, too. Winning matters.
Here’s the link. Enjoy.
Expect surprises! The Kyrie and DLo moves were not surprises. They were, after all, rumored for weeks in Pooch’s reporting and elsewhere. But we’re sure there will be surprises, just as there were in the Draft when the Nets traded down, got a first in next year’s draft and still got the (a?) player they wanted.
So as you know...