Kevin Durant lost.
That’s the takeaway from the statement Tuesday from the Brooklyn Nets announcing that the organization and its disgruntled superstar “have agreed to move forward with our partnership” after a meeting at Los Angeles between the two sides.
This is the partnership that just a few weeks ago Durant demanded be dissolved so that he could be sent to the team of his choosing. It was a meeting that featured the owner, Joe Tsai, and the two men Durant hadif he were to stay — head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.
Now the would-be divorcees claim they “are focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn.”
That’s a breathtaking comedown for Durant, and a seismic shift from the normal course of things when NBA superstars make demands, no matter how far-fetched they seem at the time.
Perhaps two of the most glaring examples of player power run amok were near and dear enough to the Nets that they’d finally had enough — for themselves and, perhaps now, in a shift of power in the NBA at large. First it was James Harden wanting out of Houston, and then, ironically, out of Brooklyn, eventually landing in Philly. And, secondly but connected, it was Ben Simmons refusing to play for the Sixers and heading to Brooklyn, where … he still hasn’t played a single minute of basketball.
Both players got what they wanted. So has nearly every other superstar when unhappy — a list at one time or another that has included Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and others.
Now there’s a precedent for teams who want to wrestle back some of the upper hand, a move made possible largely by the ham-fisted way K.D. went about things. Power is a formidable weapon when wielded wisely, for if you don’t know how to manage it you can find it suddenly in someone else’s hands.
Back when this mess first unfolded in July with Durant’s first now-failed ultimatum, we argued that the Nets, for a variety of reasons, should simply. That’s as true now as it was then, but Durant sure made it easy for Brooklyn to do.
This is a world-class player with four years left on his contract, one who was always much less likely than Simmons to miss time because, as anyone in the NBA will tell you, Durant loves to hoop. It’s a passion, a commendable and key component of his all-time greatness, and he was never likely to willingly miss time from the game he loves.
That was the first point in the Nets favor. It also helped that the Kyrie Irving debacle meant the Nets would always look to resolve the Durant situation first and — as important — demand a sizable return to disassemble a team with the lofty expectations that come with a Durant-Kyrie pairing.