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Billy King: Boston trade was about getting to Kevin Durant

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Brooklyn Nets Training Camp with Mikhail Prokhorov Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Matt Sullivan’s book on the Nets - Can’t Knock the Hustle Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow - is out June 21.

But just before the opening tap Saturday night, he dropped a nugget that “didn’t fit” in his book, but one that offers an ironic look at two of the signature moves in Nets history, the Boston trade and the Clean Sweep. Not to mention the Nets-Celtics series now underway.

In a series of tweets, Sullivan quotes Billy King as saying the June 2013 trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry was ultimately about drawing Kevin Durant, then with OKC, to Brooklyn. Indeed, it was made to impress KD who was going to be a free agent three years later, in 2016, perhaps the beginning of a dynasty in Brooklyn?

“The focus was Durant. It wasn’t LeBron, it was: Do EVERYTHING we can to put ourselves in position to get Durant,” Sullivan quoted King as saying. “I was in a position where he saw me—and knew. You just make sure that, if you do everything right, they take notice.”

“We had done a great job with the branding and opening, and if we can be a playoff team, we can get on national TV, and when it came time, we would be able to get in the conversation.”

The Nets first “Big Three” failed spectacularly, of course, as Sullivan writes. Moreover, King’s logic seems flawed. By the time KD became a free agent three years later, Garnett was 40, Pierce and Terry were 38. In fact, KG retired in 2015 and Pierce in 2016. And at the time of the trade, the Nets weren’t talking about anything other than winning now. The future, aka draft picks, be damned!

Sure if they had won —unlikely considering their wear-and-tear— and established themselves as a nascent dynasty, it would’ve helped the Brooklyn dream. But when they added the three Celtics, Brooklyn already had Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez ... and had won a respectable 49 games in 2012-13, their first in Brooklyn. It wasn’t as if they had nothing going forward. After the trade, they had no picks and for both basketball and business reasons, they let Pierce go a year later, Garnett six months after that.

As Sullivan also tweeted, the Nets, under GM Sean Marks, then “relied on a roster of burnouts [and] castaways” to get to 2019, the next time Durant was a free agent. And the rest is Nets history, which is still unfolding.