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‘Run it back?’ Ian Eagle thinks it’s possible

2022 NBA Playoffs - Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Ian Eagle chooses his words carefully. It’s his livelihood after all and he does it whether calling games or on the occasional podcast. He also has a pretty good record of getting things right. He was the first to report, for example, that Deron Williams would be bought out and stretched, first to suggest Nets interest in D’Angelo Russell, etc., etc.

He’s in the know.

So, when he spoke Monday on the status of the Nets off-season with the Bob McCown podcast out of Canada, it was worth a listen. And in the midst of national reporting on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trade scenarios, Eagle suggested that maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that Nets and their superstars try to roll it back for a season.

“So the basic is that I am not sure that the Nets and Kevin Durant know right now. I know what’s been said. And I know what’s out there and I believe that Kevin Durant’s intention when he made the phone call.” the veteran YES broadcaster told McCown. “And I thought initially the Nets thought, ‘Okay. Lets see what’s out there.’

“But with each day that goes by, I think there’s a greater chance that the two sides might find some common ground and might determine that it’s in the best interest of both sides to play this out for a year, the length of Kyrie Irving’s contract, see if they can win a championship with the group that they’re assembling, then go back and re-examine whether or not this is something that’s worth a revisit.”

Eagle emphasized nothing was assured, that it will take a reversal by KD who just before his four-year, $198 million extension was set to kick in told Joe Tsai he wanted out.

“Now, that’s predicated on Kevin Durant shifting his opinion on where things stand and whether or not this is irreparable,” Eagle continued. “That’s really the main question right now. Are you past the point of no return or are you still in a position where as the Nets accumulate pieces, Durant and Kyrie look at the team, look around the league and determine that it’s in their best interest to stay and play and attempt to win it all.”

That would involve some rehabbing of relationships, tending to bruised egos and of course, we do not (yet) know the full story behind what went down between the Nets and their two superstars. The ugliness quotient has to be high or we wouldn’t be where we are at the moment.

You could, if you were an optimist, note that none of the four key players have made a public statement that would inflame the situation. It’s all been anonymous. Durant did delete a tweet in which he said, “The ones who were locked in that gym with me know what it is, they know what I’m about. If u haven’t been in there with me, ask around.”

He’s been in L.A. as has Irving, playing in pick-up games with the likes of Donatas Sabonis, Cade Cunningham, Christian Wood, etc. Irving made an appearance in Las Vegas as well, watching two Summer League games — neither of them involving the Nets. He was in Vegas for the players’ union meetings. He remains a vice president of the NBPA. (The third member of a reconstituted “Big Three”, Ben Simmons, has been at two Nets games looking healthy and happy.)

As for Nets ownership and management, one could theorize that their strategy — asking for the world in return for KD in particular — works if you want to wait things out and hope for the best with Durant and Irving. It’s all a negotiation.

Virtually every report and there a lot of them suggest that Sean Marks is prepared to wait as long as he has to for the best deal possible. Moreover, Brian Windhorst reported Monday that a number of NBA executives, presumably including Marks, will go on vacation following the end of Summer League in five days. That too will slow things. Also, there are the reports that KD has gone to ground, barely communicating with most people, including his agent and manager, Rich Kleiman, at least according of John Hollinger.

While waiting, the Nets are re-signing key players — Nic Claxton and Patty Mills — and adding others — Royce O’Neale, T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner — perhaps in hopes of convincing KD and Kyrie to stay. And they’re not done. Counting Durant and Irving, the Nets have only 13 players, including new two-way Alondes Williams, under contract. They can bring 20 players into camp and with the two-ways will have 17 spots available when the season begins.

Teammates, of course, want a run back as well, including O’Neale.

“I mean, I ain’t got nothing to do with that. I don’t know nothing about that,” O’Neale said about the Durant-Irving situation. “But definitely with all those guys, it’s a special group we got right now. I think we can do something special. It’s going to be fun.”

Perhaps this is all pollyannish, that Eagle is reflecting the hopes of ownership and management ... and the Nets fans. As Marc Stein wrote Tuesday...

Whispers have increasingly circulated in recent days that Brooklyn, in response to an underwhelming array of Durant offers to date, is prepared to hang on to the superstar forward in hopes that Durant’s desire to leave could soften between now and the start of training camp in late September. How much stomach Nets officials have to uphold that position — or if it proves to be a mere negotiating ploy — is a matter of debate.

Moreover, Stefan Bondy of the Daily News tweets that there has been recent “contact” between Durant and the Nets...

It was also the second time in the last week that someone with contacts inside the Nets front office suggested the possibility of a change. On July 6, Adrian Wojnarowski told Malika Andrews on ESPN that “absolutely” things could change.

“Absolutely, especially if this drags out and there’s not a deal found in the next month and it gets into August and training camp. They don’t have to take a deal they don’t want to do. They don’t have to talk themselves into a deal but at same time, Kevin Durant, he looks at the situation. Could he look at it differently over time. That’s certainly a possibility.

“And I think if you’re Kevin Durant and you start to look at the teams you might want to land at and what those teams might look like after they have to unload so many assets. I think that’s why there’s no rush in this process and I think that perhaps there will be a time where there’s better communication going on between Kevin Durant and Brooklyn and Kevin Durant and maybe that could impact the idea of him returning but nobody’s counting on it.

“I think all sides are proceeding as if Durant will be traded at some point, but because of the years left on his contract — four years on this contract — the fact that this is the off-season, things can change, they can evolve, no question,” noted Woj.

We will ultimately find out, of course, but it may take a long, long summer.