It was supposed to be the move that changed the balance of power in the NBA. Now it seems like the Kevin Durant era in Brooklyn is on the verge of crumbling.
According to a report by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Brooklyn Nets are concerned about a worst-case scenario this offseason, where Kyrie Irving declines his player option and leaves in free agency, leading to Kevin Durant to request a trade.
“Kyrie Irving’s search for leverage on his contract discussions with the Brooklyn Nets won’t be found with the threat of a $30 million pay cut to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers,” Woj wrote, “but the sum of the franchise’s deepest fears: Irving walks, and Kevin Durant wants a trade.
“For everything owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks did to assemble one of the modern NBA’s most talented Big 3s, Irving’s impenetrable connection to Durant looms as a domino to the dismantling of the roster. Brooklyn is straddling the narrowest of walkways: Keeping conviction on Irving’s contract talks and keeping Durant’s desire to stay a Net.”
Whatever their desires are, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving don’t have a ton of options. Should Irving refuse to stay with the Nets, not one of the six teams he’s reportedly interested in joining — the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers — could afford him on a max deal worth five-years, $240 million. It’s worth mentioning that Irving could much more easily leave if he is willing to take a significant pay cut, or if he elects to opt in and then get traded.
Shams Charania of The Athletic said that Durant is “monitoring the Brooklyn Nets’ situation and considering options with his future.”
For Durant, should he want out once Irving leaves, he would have to bank on the Nets trading him. Durant is under contract for four-more seasons, and there isn’t a ton of incentive for Brooklyn to offload him, especially after trading for Ben Simmons last season.
Durant could hold out, as Simmons did last year, but would face significant criticism for doing so.
Ultimately, this entire thing may be a bluff. Durant and Irving wanted to play together, and it would seem each has the opportunity to do so in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future should they choose.