Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are staying together.
A trade request that jolted the franchise and dominated NBA headlines has been removed. The Nets will return next season with their all-star forward in uniform – and with their championship hopes intact.
The Nets said Tuesday that the team’s leadership met a day earlier with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles and “agreed to move forward with our partnership,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
Marks attended the meeting along with coach Steve Nash and owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai.
“We are focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn,” Marks added.
That is certainly more likely by keeping Durant, who remains one of the best scorers in the NBA. He is set to begin a four-year extension he signed last summer, and the possibility of him being traded had been the biggest story in the NBA this summer.
It’s unknown exactly why he sought a trade, which came at the end of a turbulent year in Brooklyn. A championship favourite before last season began, the Nets barely made the playoffs and then were bounced by Boston in four games in the first round.
The Nets then refused to give a contract extension to Kyrie Irving, Durant’s close friend, forcing him to pick up his option for next season, the final year of his deal.
The uncertainty around Durant’s future in Brooklyn – the Toronto Raptors were one of the teams initially considered to be a potential landing spot – likely contributed to the Nets being left off 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 bidding 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 top trio. Joe Harris also will be back after the two-time NBA leader in three-point percentage was limited to just 14 games because of left-ankle surgery.
It would have been hard for Durant to find many better situations, and the Nets likely had little interest in trying to land him one. Few teams could have offered the type of trade package the Nets would have sought and still been able to 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 semi-finals, despite Durant scoring 48 points in the final game, the most ever in a Game 7.
Durant was brilliant again last season but couldn’t save 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 swapped in the deal for Simmons in February.
All of that likely frustrated Durant, who left Golden State in 2019 after two championships in three seasons to come with Irving to Brooklyn.
And now, that’s where he’ll stay.