Kevin Durant is staying in Brooklyn after all

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Maaddi, FISM News


Kevin Durant is staying put in New York.

The 12-time All-Star and two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player has rescinded his trade request and will return to the Brooklyn Nets for the next season.

“(Coach) Steve Nash and I, together with (governors) Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai, met with Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles yesterday,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement released Tuesday. “We have agreed to move forward with our partnership. We are focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn.”

Durant has four years remaining on his contract worth $194 million. His trade request on the eve of the NBA’s free agency period shook up Brooklyn’s organization and dominated basketball headlines throughout the summer.

But the Nets would’ve wanted a massive haul of players and picks in return for Durant and a trade didn’t appear imminent at any point.

Durant never made it clear why he wanted out of Brooklyn, and the Nets give him an excellent chance at winning another championship. Kyrie Irving didn’t get a contract extension from the Nets but chose to opt into the final year of his contract. Staying in Brooklyn allows Durant to rejoin his friend on the court. The duo will get an opportunity to play with three-time All-Star Ben Simmons for the first time this fall.

Simmons was acquired from the 76ers in a blockbuster trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia, but Simmons didn’t appear in any games while recovering from injuries. Simmons had a microdiscectomy procedure in May to address pain located in a herniated disk in his lower back, and he is expected to be healthy for training camp.

The Nets were a preseason favorite to win the NBA championship last season but were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. Keeping Durant and Irving gives Brooklyn a legitimate shot to contend for an NBA title this season.

The Nets will be a favorite in the Eastern Conference with Simmons returning and two-time NBA leader in 3-point percentage Joe Harris back after he was limited to just 14 games because of left ankle surgery last season.

The 34-year-old Durant averaged a franchise-record 29.9 points last season. Brooklyn was in contention for a top spot in the East last year before Durant sustained a knee injury that forced him to miss 21 games.

Brooklyn hoped teaming Harden with Durant and Irving during the 2020-21 season would result in a title. However, injuries plagued the Nets throughout that season and the trio didn’t get much of an opportunity to build chemistry. They reached the Eastern Conference semifinals only to lose to eventual NBA champion Milwaukee in seven games. Durant scored 48 points in the final game, an NBA record for Game 7.

Last season unraveled for Brooklyn despite Durant’s dominance on the floor. Irving missed most of the team’s home games because of New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with which he refused to comply. Harden then requested and received a trade.

Now, the Nets have reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The team’s odds to win the NBA title improved from 18-1 to 7-1, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Only the Celtics (5-1), Warriors and Clippers (6-1) have better odds.