Every team in the NBA wants a player like Kevin Durant.
Not every team is willing to give up significant assets in a trade for the actual Kevin Durant.
That’s the important takeaway from the Brooklyn Nets’ failed attempt to trade Durant in the offseason after he requested one.
What the Nets wanted for Durant and what teams were willing to offer did not match.
Nets owner Joe Tsai, general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash met with Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman on Monday in Los Angeles, and the two sides vowed to ‘move forward’ in pursuit of a championship.
This is not a feel-good, campfire moment. Durant issued an ultimatum, according to a report in The Athletic, telling ownership he had to go or the Marks-Nash pairing had to go. Neither happened.
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Whether it was conveyed directly to Durant or not, the Nets tried to trade him and no team wanted to give up valuable players and draft picks for a 12-time All-Star, two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP and one-time regular-season MVP. Not one contending team (Boston and Miami) and not one team looking to contend (Memphis, New Orleans and Toronto) were willing to risk a Durant trade.
That says something about what teams think of Durant, who overplayed his hand. As one NBA executive described the Nets’ inability to trade Durant: “Teams don’t want to overpay for someone who has proven he will burn your house down.”
His recent penchant for wanting to parachute into a championship-caliber organization and look for ways out a year or two later worries teams.
Durant, who will turn 34 next month, has an attractive contract, entering the first year of a four-year, $194.2 million deal. Teams were concerned he would want out after a season or two and the team would be out draft picks and players while trying to trade a player a year or two older.
Durant, in this offseason, doesn’t have the cachet to force a trade. He missed the entire 2019-20 season recovering from an Achilles injury and missed 64 of 154 games the past two seasons.
Let’s see how the season starts and how Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons blend. Perhaps it’s a strong start, keeping everyone satisfied. On the news that Durant will return to Brooklyn, the Nets’ championship odds increased twofold, making them favorites just behind Boston, Milwaukee and Golden State.
Maybe it’s a poor start, and the dysfunction that has defined the Nets the past three seasons overwhelms the franchise. Just because both sides are committed to winning now doesn’t mean it will be that way headed into the February trade deadline.
Around the league, there was little empathy for the Nets, but executives and owners are relieved the Nets did not capitulate to Durant’s wishes. He just signed the extension that kicks in this season one year ago, and they wanted Durant to honor at least one year of the deal. They understand how easily it could be their team in this predicament.
The Durant issue was closely watched not only around the league but at the league office, too, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver weighing in at last month’s Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas.
“We don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is,” Silver said, adding, “when a player asks to be moved, it has a ripple effect on a lot of other players, on that player’s team and other teams. So it’s not just potentially the league or the team governors who are impacted by that, but lots of other players as well.
“It’s one of those issues that as we move into this collective bargaining cycle, which we are just beginning now, we intend to discuss with our (National Basketball) Players Association and see if there are remedies for this.”
Remedies that are palatable to players and owners are limited, a concession team executives acknowledge despite their frustration.
While trade requests are not isolated incidents, it’s not like there are 50 of them each season. They are restricted to a handful of elite players who have the power to pressure teams. It’s an issue that has been around for decades and it’s not going away.
The Nets’ angst lasted about six weeks and a resolution has been reached. However temporary that may be.
Follow NBA columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA exec on Kevin Durant-Brooklyn Nets: ‘He will burn your house down’