NEW YORK – The good news of the day for New York fans: Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets will stick together in pursuit of an NBA title for New York.
And it is that an exchange request was eliminated that shook the franchise and dominated the NBA headlines. The Nets will return next season with their striker All-Star in uniform, and with their hopes of intact championship.
The Nets said Tuesday that team leadership met a day earlier with Durant and his business partner Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles and “agreed to move forward with their partnership,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
Marks attended the meeting along with trainer Steve Nash and owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai.
“We are focusing on basketball with one collective goal in mind: to build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn,” added Marks.
That’s certainly more likely keeping Durant, who remains one of the best scorers in the NBA. He’s set to start a four-year extension he signed last summer, and the prospect of being traded has been the biggest story in the NBA this summer.
It is unknown exactly why he sought an exchange, which occurred at the end of a turbulent year in Brooklyn. The Nets, championship favorites before last season began, barely made the playoffs and then were beaten by Boston in four games in the first round.
The Nets then refused to give Durant’s close friend Kyrie Irving a contract extension, forcing him to pick up his option for next season, the final year of his contract.
The uncertainty over Durant’s future in Brooklyn likely contributed to the Nets being left out of the five-game Christmas lineup and being scheduled to appear only eight times on ABC and ESPN.
But with Durant, the Nets can still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He averaged a franchise-record 29.9 points last season, and the Nets were contending for the top spot in the East before he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for 21 games.
With Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons, who is expected to return after not playing for the Nets last season following his trade from Philadelphia, the Nets will have a superior trio. Joe Harris will also return after the two-time NBA leader in 3-point percentage was limited to just 14 games due to left ankle surgery.
It would have been hard for Durant to find many better situations, and the Nets probably had little interest in trying to get him one. Few teams could have offered the kind of trade package the Nets would have sought and still remain a championship contender.
The Nets believed they had built one in the 2020-21 season after acquiring James Harden to play with Durant and Irving. But they dealt with injuries throughout that season and were eliminated by eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, despite Durant scoring 48 points in the final game, the most in a Game 7.
Durant was brilliant again last season, but he couldn’t salvage a season that was marred by Irving missing most of Brooklyn’s home games because he refused to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Harden then asked to be traded and was traded for Simmons in February.
All that probably frustrated Durant, who left Golden State in 2019 after two championships in three seasons to go with Irving to Brooklyn.
And now, that’s where it will stay; so, Let’s go Nets! (Come on Nets).