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ESPN on Kevin Durant talks: ‘We are nearly at the same spot we were a month ago’

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday will be exactly a month since Kevin Durant reportedly made his trade request to Joe Tsai and virtually every day there has been a rumor or two or three, but at this point it appears that nothing much has changed. Moreover, the NBA is on its first real vacation since the pandemic struck in March 2020.

So what’s the bottom line? In an ESPN+ conversation posted Thursday, Bobby Marks and Tim Bontemps talked about possibilities, but at the end of the long back-and-forth, Marks summed things up: “For now, we are nearly at the same spot we were a month ago — waiting to see if a trade materializes or if Durant is in a Brooklyn uniform at the start of the season.”

In the past couple of days, there have been others saying the same thing. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that the Heat are “disinclined” to add Bam Adebayo to a KD trade package ... even if the Nets were able to move Ben Simmons (which would need to happen because the two are on designated rookie extensions.) Mike Scotto of Hoopshype said that according to his sources, the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram has not been “put on the table” in any trade scenarios and the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes is also off the table. Bob Myers of the Warriors publicly told NBA.com that “I like our team and where it’s at,” an indication he doesn’t want to break up his team.

While all of that could be the teams’ negotiating position and thus subject to change, it essentially limits the discussion to the Celtics and a possible trade centered on Durant for Jaylen Brown which Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania reported on Tuesday morning.

Bobby Marks and Bontemps however questioned Boston’s need to go for broke in a deal with their division rivals, particularly when the team’s strengths are its bench, depth and defense, all of which would be lessened in a KD deal that would include other pieces like Marcus Smart or Grant Williams. Bontemps opined that he thinks any such move would be a bad one.

Boston has constructed a roster built around a pair of young, dynamic two-way wing players in Brown and Jayson Tatum, and has as good of a defense as I’ve seen in my decade covering the NBA. Trading for Durant would mean fundamentally changing the team and how it plays. Many people would look at that and say, “Sign me up!” I completely understand why. But, to me, you make this trade only if it moves you from one tier to another when discussing a team’s championship odds. In my opinion, that would not be the case for the Celtics.

Marks agrees, saying the Celtics are in place to add a third star not named Durant at a lower price.

The Celtics are positioned to chase a third star and not have to risk an All-NBA type player like Brown to do so. Despite trading a first to acquire Derrick White last February and another first for Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics still have their complement of first-round picks (along with two pick swaps) and tradable contracts (Smart, White, Williams, Horford, Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams III) to make a roster upgrade if needed.

Bobby Marks point is that the Celtics would have to replace whoever they sent Brooklyn with vets’ minimum deals. As for Brooklyn, he said that if the Boston deal falls through, the Nets could be back to “square one.”

[I]f Boston decides the cost to add Durant is too high, or if Brooklyn decides Boston’s package isn’t the treasure chest the team expected, then Brooklyn would be back to square one and faced with a ticking clock as training camp approaches.

Should the Nets continue to play the waiting game, hoping that a better trade materializes during the regular season, or are they at a point of no return where they should take the best available Durant package before training camp?

Bontemps also questioned just how much leverage the Nets have even with Durant under contract for four years and $198 million. He is after all a superstar.

[T]he consistent theme I heard in speaking to other teams was that while the Nets have Durant on a four-year contract, he doesn’t want to be there. We have seen time and again that, when players want to get out of town, they find a way to do so. Brooklyn knows this first-hand from what happened with Harden six months ago. Right now, the Nets find themselves in a standoff with their various trade partners, none of whom believe they need to get their offers anywhere close to the “perfect package” that you pointed out Brooklyn is looking for.

That “perfect package” is, as Bobby Marks noted, four first-round picks, three pick swaps and one player on a rookie-scale contract who has the upside to become an All-NBA-type player. “I don’t believe that package exists, at least for now,” Marks said.

Although both Woj and Shams said on Tuesday that Durant has not moved off his trade request, the two suggested that the Nets best hope may be getting KD back in training camp and committed to Brooklyn. But that scenario carries big risks. Said Bontemps:

[T]he situation I’ve repeatedly thought about was the Kobe Bryant trade demand in 2007. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t find a deal that worked for both them and Bryant, and they ended up improving the roster and reaching three consecutive NBA Finals, winning the last two. The Nets should do everything in their power to try to find a similar resolution here, especially because there isn’t the kind of overwhelming trade package on the table right now as a better alternative.

Of course, Bryant made his trade demand on talk radio. Durant made his to the team’s owner. (On the other hand, Bryant did it publicly, Durant privately so walking things back could be less of an issue.)

Bobby Marks suggested that without a trade of either Durant and Irving, Media Day the last week of September could be wild.

However, what will happen when players have to report to training camp in late September? Can you picture a media day with Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons all in their Nets uniforms getting ready for the first practice. The front office, coaching staff and players would almost have to hold an intervention before they step on the court.

The former Nets GM said the risks are not just on the Nets side of things. There are risks for KD as well but he like a lot of other pundits, reporters and analysts don’t think Durant would sit out like Simmons did last season.

I am not concerned that Durant will replicate what Simmons did last year in Philadelphia and hold out. Not only would it destroy his trade value but also tarnish his legacy. Durant is smart enough to realize that his only way out of Brooklyn is to be on the basketball court.

The two writers think that everything considered, the Nets best strategy is waiting things out. Said Marks:

Trading Durant is the biggest decision this front office has faced, and the Nets are smart enough to wait this process out.

Similarly, Bontemps said the Nets are not likely to take the best deal available and simply wash their hands of Durant.

If I was Nets GM Sean Marks, however, I absolutely would not do that — as we have said several times over, players like these simply don’t come along often enough to make that decision.

The two also agreed that the off-season is not the best time to make such a deal. Every team loves their roster in the summer. Then, as the season marches on, GMs see the gaps and opportunities. How long before that happens? On December 15, roughly a quarter of the way into the season, teams can finally include players signed in the off-season in trade packages.

That’s a long time.