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Mazzeo: Kevin Durant recruiting Serge Ibaka

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Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Mike Mazzeo, the former Nets beat writer now writing for Forbes Sports, reports that Kevin Durant is trying to bring his former Thunder teammate Serge Ibaka to Brooklyn, hoping their friendship and the lure of a second ring would get the 7-footer to bypass a big contract for the Nets taxpayer MLE. The MLE would pay Ibaka $5.7 million this year with a maximum of $18 million over three years.

Mazzeo writes...

Kevin Durant has been recruiting close friend Serge Ibaka to join the Brooklyn Nets as a free agent, according to league sources.

Durant and Ibaka forged a strong relationship while playing together in Oklahoma City. But the veteran Ibaka, who made $23.3 million last season, would have to take a significant discount to join the Nets.

“We’re very close, he’s like my brother,” Ibaka said of Durant earlier this year to Fansided.

Ibaka, who’s 31, just had his most productive season in his 11-year career, averaging 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds with a shooting line of 51/39/72 despite only starting 27 games for the Raptors. His scoring average was the highest of his career and his rebounding number was his best in six years and second best in his career. (He did miss 17 games, mainly due to a sprained ankle.)

The native of Congo made $23.3 million last season so signing for the TMLE would be a big pay cut but Ibaka has already earned $120 million in his career and the belief is he might be willing to take less to sign with a championship contender. Ibaka won a ring with Toronto in 2019.

Besides the Nets, he’s expected to draw significant interest from several teams, including the Lakers, Celtics, Clippers, Heat, Mavericks, Blazers and Toronto, according to Heavy.com. Lakers fans got excited last week when Ibaka followed the Lakers official Twitter feed. None of those teams have the cap space to sign him at market value so personal relations could be key to security his signature.

And no one has the personal relationship that KD has with Ibaka. The two played together for seven years in Oklahoma City, being a big part of the Thunder Finals team in 2012.

A year ago, Durant made an appearance on Ibaka’s cooking show, “How Hungry Are You?” suggesting the two could eventually team up for a championship...

Mazzeo reports as well that the possibility has been rumored in NBA circles for months.

Back in January, Caron Butler said during a radio appearance that Durant and Kyrie Irving already had 2020-21 player targets in mind for the upcoming campaign.

Back in January, Caron Butler said during a radio appearance that Durant and Kyrie Irving already had 2020-21 player targets in mind for the upcoming campaign.

“(They’re) guys that have enough leverage and relationships that they know exactly who they want to play with already and it’s already written,” Butler said.

“I think there’s a handful of guys already out there, that’s about to come on the open market or already got momentum in their favor going to Brooklyn this offseason. (Kyrie and KD) know who they want to play with already,” Butler added.

Earlier Wednesday, Keith Smith of RealGM tweeted that power forward is indeed high up on the Nets list of priorities.

Mazzeo also reports that Spencer Dinwiddie is marketing himself to other teams. The 27-year-old dumped his agent at RocNation recently and is currently representing himself.

Dinwiddie is ... looking to solidify his future, which could potentially be elsewhere. SNY reported that several Western Conference contenders have an interest in Dinwiddie.

NBA free agency opens in 11 days.