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Amick: Nets won’t budge from Durant demands, starting with a team’s second best player

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Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In writing about the history of holdouts, The Athletic’s Sam Amick notes that there is no change in the Nets widely perceived demand for a Kevin Durant return and adds that despite hopes for a “run it back” scenario, “by most accounts, the end has unofficially arrived between Durant and the Nets.”

For Amick, a Boston Celtic package headlined by Jaylen Brown may be the “unofficial front runner” not just because of the return but because it sets a baseline for other teams to match or exceed.

Among the executives with whom I spoke, a Boston deal with Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece appears to be the unofficial front-runner here. In general terms, sources say the Nets are using the fact that the Celtics (and perhaps other teams) have made their second-best player available as a baseline of sorts in negotiations. Translation: If you’re still trying to discuss a Durant deal without putting your second-best talent on the table, then just stop wasting everyone’s time and bow out of this race.

Amick doesn’t indicate which other teams might be offering their “second best player,” but notes that because of KD’s place as a top 3 player and the length of his contract (four years without any trade kicker or player option), the Nets are right in not accepting less that full value.

And who can blame the Nets for taking this stance? As our Seth Partnow reminded us in his NBA Player Tiers recently, Durant is as elite as they come: a “Tier 1A” player in the project in which Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are the only other players to be given that distinction.

So we wait for a deal to come together — just like we have all those times before.

And despite rumors, not every team is putting their second best play in proposed deals. Christian Clarke of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote Tuesday about the Pelicans not putting all their chips in.

If Durant gets moved, the New Orleans Pelicans could be players in the sweepstakes, but that would likely require them to surrender Brandon Ingram. League sources say the Pelicans are unwilling to do so.

Ingram is nine years younger than Durant, and in terms of annual average value, he costs approximately $15 million less.

Amick, however, doesn’t think a run it back scenario is going to work, particularly after KD’s ultimatum to Joe Tsai 10 days ago: either trade me or fire Sean Marks and Steve Nash.

This is some next-level boldness from Durant, to say the least. And while he made it clear (via Twitter) on Monday that speculation about his possible retirement is off-base, the ironic question now becomes: If a trade doesn’t materialize before Nets camp begins in late September, is Durant willing to go full Jimmy Butler if he doesn’t get what he wants? Or, perhaps, will he go the route of his Nets teammate Simmons and not report to camp (as Simmons did in Philadelphia last season)?

...By most accounts, the end has unofficially arrived between Durant and the Nets.

If Durant thought that would speed up the process, that plan isn’t working either, quoting an NBA executive on where the Nets stand:

“Marks is still asking for the world; that won’t change,” one front office executive texted late last week. “They could call his bluff and make him come to camp. I can’t see him sitting out.”

That, again, would be complicated by the way Durant’s contract is structured, as Marc Stein wrote last week. Durant received a quarter of his $44.7 million salary on July 1 and will receive the second quarter on October 1, six days into training camp.

Still, Brian Windhorst who’s done some of the best reporting on the Nets demise starting with the James Harden trade rumors thinks the Nets still believe there’s a chance they can talk KD into a return. Windhorst doesn’t think the strategy will work, however.

“What’s kind of developed over those forty-seven days is that we now have two different negotiations,” said Windhorst Tuesday on ESPN, discussing the time since Durant made his trade request.

“One of course is with all of those teams interested in Kevin Durant. We just haven’t seen significant traction in any of those deals. The Nets’ asking price is very high and their leverage for getting those teams in offering so much just hasn’t materialized.

“The other negotiation that is now developing is between Durant and the Nets about what it would look like for him to come back. That’s a big part of the discussions he had with owner Joe Tsai in London. Joe Tsai and the Nets believe they have a really good team. They don’t believe they have a good trade for Kevin Durant and they want him to consider coming back.”

Sounds good for Nets fans, but Windhorst wondered aloud what happens when the Nets realize “run it back” won’t work.

“But Durant has very clearly made it known that he doesn’t want to play for the Nets under the current situation–with the current coach and the current GM. So you have to ask yourself, what is the avenue, what is the path for Kevin Durant to move forward with the Nets.”

Bottom line for Windhorst is that neither side has much leverage and thus there’s a stalemate.

“The dynamic around Kevin Durant hasn’t changed at all. There hasn’t been an urgency in trade talks. There hasn’t been a change in strategy by the Brooklyn Nets,” said Windhorst.

“I think what we have here is really a study of leverage. First off, the Nets do not have leverage in trade talks with other teams. They are not giving them the offers that they want. They see no reason to increase them. So, they’re not making any progress there.

“Kevin Durant clearly does not have leverage with the Brooklyn Nets. He is asking for things: ‘Get me traded. Fire the coach. Fire the GM.’ He is being told no. So, when you have denied leverage, you have a stalemate.”