Nets owner backs team leaders amid Durant’s ultimatum

Nets owner Joe Tsai took to Twitter Monday night to express his support for the team’s front office and coaching staff, adding, “We will make decisions based on the best interests of the Brooklyn Nets.”

The tweet appeared to be in response to a report by The Athletic that said the team’s star forward, Kevin Durant, was still insisting that the Nets meet the trade request he made in June. Durant, one of the NBA’s best players, met Tsai in person over the weekend. Athletic reports, and staying with the team resulted in the firing of coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks. (Durant has previously publicly praised Nash, who just completed his second year as Nets coach, saying in the spring that the coach has handled the Nets “perfectly.”)

The Nets did not respond to a request for comment, and a spokeswoman for Durant’s company, Boardroom, declined to comment.

Tsai’s tweet was an unusual escalation of the simmering feud between the 33-year-old Durant and the Nets. Tsai has rarely weighed in on basketball matters in public, and just a year ago Durant was happily married to the Nets, agreeing to a four-year contract extension with the team he signed with in the summer of 2019.

But much of Durant’s three seasons with the Nets didn’t go according to plan and was marked by turmoil.

Durant, recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, signed with his friends, star guard Kyrie Irving and veteran center DeAndre Jordan, with the franchise. During the 2020-21 season, the Nets traded their young players, along with several draft picks, to Houston for James Harden in what appears to be one of the most formidable star groups in NBA history.

But the three stars did not see the court often due to injuries. They played only 16 games together and had a A dominant record of 13-3. In the 2021 playoffs, the Nets lost in the second round to the Milwaukee Bucks, the eventual champions.

Last season, the Nets were once again optimistic that they would live up to their high expectations. But Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 meant he couldn’t play in home games towards the end of the season due to New York’s rule, which was eventually lifted. Frustrated, Harden asked the Nets for a trade, and the Nets sent him to the division rival Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons. And once again, Durant, like the rest of the team, has dealt with injuries, forcing Nash to push rookies into unexpected roles.

The Nets finished at the bottom of the playoffs, getting swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round, a disappointing result for a team that, on paper, looked like one of the most talented teams of the decade.

Durant’s trade request was a bombshell that shocked many league observers. For one thing, the Nets were slated to enter training camp with a formidable roster that included Simmons, a three-time All-Star, and Irving, who opted into the final year of his contract. But a player of Durant’s caliber almost never makes a trade request like that with four years left on his contract.

Durant’s trade value, despite his resume, is uncertain, in part because of how rare his asking price is and also because of Durant himself. In three years with the Nets, he played 90 regular season games, with a possible 236 due to injuries. He will be entering his 16th season, a stage in which most players are already in steep decline. But when Durant played, he mostly looked like he always has: a generational talent.

Durant’s talent makes him a formidable risk for a team trying to build on its upside, not the least of which is that when a team trades for him, he may not want to stick around.

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