The Phoenix Suns will play the New York Knicks Sunday afternoon, but on Saturday, Kevin Durant was taking reporters questions at Suns practice and the questions were mainly coming from Brooklyn Nets beat writers and were mainly about what one Nets fan has appropriately called, “Twilight of the Gods,” that week just before the trade deadline when KD and Kyrie Irving told Brooklyn they wanted out.
At this point, all the organizations involved — the Nets, Suns and Mavericks — say they are are happy with the outcome, the rebuilding Nets winding up with a haul of draft picks as well as four starters: Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie in the process. Brooklyn’s record is not as good (7-8) as the Suns or Mavericks (both 10-6.)
That said, talk of the trades continue and KD reignited things with his first comments on what happened, the headline being that the Nets wouldn’t let him go, “refused to get rid of me.”
“I did try [to move earlier], they just refused to get rid of me. I tried, but time ran out,” Durant told reporters. “I wasn’t going to miss no games because of this whole thing, so once the season rolled around, I was just like whatever happens, it happens.”
“This guy knows what we went through the last few years in Brooklyn,” Durant said, nodding toward Brian Lewis of the Post. “It’s always about next-man-up mentality in this league. Guys get hurt, guys not in the lineup. You get paid to be a pro for a reason. Guys have got to step up and just play the games. … You see the character of a team when you’re mixing lineups and got to fight through adversity like that.”
Durant didn’t exactly define “this whole thing” nor identify who he was referring to when he talked about players “who needed to step and just play the games.”
In discussing what went wrong, KD spoke in only general terms, saying at the core of things was a lack of consistency and lessons learned for everyone, a diplomatic response if there ever was one. (Joe Tsai and KD’s Thirty-Five Ventures are still partners in more than one business.)
“In Brooklyn? Yeah, it just wasn’t no consistency, no continuity on who we were as a team,” Durant said. “And when you want to win a championship, you’ve got to build an identity from Day 1, and it was just a lot of circumstances that were out of the players’ control that got in the way of us building our continuity. That’s just the business of basketball.”
Even without details, it certainly seems like he was talking about the bloody end to the Big Three era and specifically Irving’s serial issues, although he might well be talking about Ben Simmons as well. In Kyrie’s case, they included an unexcused absence, a fine for violating the league’s COVID policies by holding a birthday party for family membets, failure to get vaccinated knowing it would mean he couldn’t play in New York, then his promotion of a video filled with antisemitic tropes. And it is well known that Durant and Simmons did not get along well.
As for his comments that he wanted out of Brooklyn, KD indeed did ask out earlier as any Nets fan knows, famously demanding a trade on June 30, 2022, hours before his four-year, $198 million kicked in, then asking that Steve Nash and Sean Marks be canned, etc. Two months later, almost to the day, Durant agreed to return to the Nets, but with what we later learned was a very big caveat. If the 35-year-old was still unhappy at the trade deadline, the Nets would try to move him to his favored destination, the Suns. And that happened.
“So it worked out perfect timing, the way it’s supposed to,” said summing up. Indeed, the timing was critical. In the summer of 2022, the Suns wouldn’t include Mikal Bridges in a trade package and so talks stalled. No deal. But the day before the February trade deadline, Mat Ishbia was approved as the Suns new owner and decided he’d make a splash. Working directly with Tsai ,who had mentored Ishbia in his ownership pursuit, the Suns’ new owner agreed to include not only Bridges, but four firsts — all unprotected; a first round pick swap as well as Jae Crowder who Sean Marks and co. turned into two second rounders (later used in the Joe Harris and Patty Mills salary dumps.)
As noted above, everyone involved seems, at least at this point, happy with the outcome. KD and Kyrie are key pieces in their team’s run for a title and the Nets have building blocks for the future. Of course, it’s hard to get over the Big Three Era and as we and others said and wrote, the collapse of Durant, Irving and Harden was catastrophic. Will that turn around? if so when? The past is the past and as KD said, “we learned a lot from that experience.” The question now is how will it all play out.
- Kevin Durant cites Nets’ inconsistency as reason for trade demand - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets Notebook: Kevin Durant says Nets ‘refused to get rid of me’ ($) - Peter Sblendorio - New York Daily News