NBA training camps begin in a little more than a month, and Kevin Durant — among the league’s MVP favorites two months into last season — is still available nearly eight weeks after he requested a trade.
Everyone inquired about the asking price from the outset, and a slew of negotiations have been reported, but the Brooklyn Nets have yet to make a deal. We’d call them sweepstakes if they weren’t grinding to a halt. It all reeks of desperation, either to keep Durant or improve the return from some rather paltry offers.
The Boston Celtics reportedly offered Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and a first-round draft pick for Durant while back. That package is by far the most attractive one that’s been made public. I wouldn’t do it if I were the Celtics. Brooklyn will be lucky to land anything better than a 25-year-old All-Star and additional assets, especially if you believe other reported offers, and we’re not even sure if Brown is still on the table.
The Nets first countered by asking for both Brown and Jayson Tatum, according to The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach. They then sought Brown, Marcus Smart, a wealth of first-round picks and “potentially one more rotation player,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported. The Celtics obviously rejected both proposals, because either one would make them less of a championship favorite than they already are.
If Nets general manager Sean Marks is serious about trading Durant, it is unclear if he has a firm grip on the reality of the situation. It bears repeating: Durant will be 34 years old next month. He is two years removed from missing an entire season to a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. He has since missed 64 more games to knee and hamstring injuries. And he is coming off the most disappointing playoff series of his 15-year career.
Nobody should be mortgaging their future for the hope that Durant stays healthy enough to deliver a title before the window closes on his prime, never mind the fact that he might seek another trade on a whim.
Everyone but the Nets and Durant appear to be operating with this understanding. According to Charania:
The Toronto Raptors “refused” to offer Scottie Barnes.
The Miami Heat have not offered Bam Adebayo.
The New Orleans Pelicans consider Brandon Ingram “untouchable.”
The Memphis Grizzlies will not offer Jaren Jackson Jr. or Desmond Bane.
The Phoenix Suns offered Mikal Bridges and “a handful” of first-round picks.
The Atlanta Hawks offered John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and a draft pick.
Tell me again why the Nets shouldn’t leap at the chance to land Brown? Himmelsbach reported on Sunday that the Celtics and Nets “have not had any real discussions of substance,” which makes sense. Otherwise, we are to believe Bane, Barnes and Ingram are not on the table, but Brown is, and Brooklyn isn’t biting?
Something stinks, and it ain’t just the chemistry in Brooklyn.
I’m starting to think the true offers for Durant are less enticing than the Nets are letting on. Honestly, what does a Grizzlies package look like without any of their best players? A bunch of draft picks from a young team that won 56 games without durant? That’s as insulting as Brooklyn asking for Brown and Tatum, and the Nets should be awfully worried if Mikal Bridges is the best player they can get in a picks-centric deal.
Everything we have come to learn about how the Nets have handled Durant’s trade request suggests they plan on him staying. It is the only avenue that makes any sense at this point. They re-signed Patty Mills and traded a first-round pick for Royce O’Neale, moves one makes when constructing a contender. Marks’ exorbitant counteroffers feel like excuses for telling Durant, “We tried, but we just couldn’t find a fair deal.”
Only, Durant reportedly delivered an ultimatum to Nets owner Joe Tsai: Trade him or fire both Marks and head coach Steve Nash. Likewise, “a source close to the Nets organization” told The New York Post, “Kyrie Irving hates these guys. He feels that Nash is terrible and Marks is bad. KD came to the same conclusion.”
Tsai responded by delivering a public vote of confidence in Marks and Nash on Twitter.
The rest of the league knows full well Nash has no shot of successfully coaching Durant and Irving next season, not with these degrees of animus, so why increase any trade offers at this point? Brooklyn looses leverage every day the organization retains Nash, and it won’t get any better if Durant skips training camp.
The Nets have to know this, too, but they are somehow bungling the process of both trying to retain Durant and attracting more lucrative offers for him. The clock is ticking, and Brooklyn isn’t getting less desperate.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach