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With the NBA offseason in full swing and free agency to come, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant hasn’t yet put on his recruiting cap and reached out to players due to hit the open market, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Wojnarowski explained how this is a departure from Durant’s typical approach:
“How far do the Nets push and leave themselves open to the organization’s greatest vulnerability – [a Kyrie] Irving exit resulting in Durant deciding the roster is no longer talented enough for championship contention?
“In previous offseasons, rival agents and players would tell you of Durant’s eagerness in talking to potential free agents. So far, that hasn’t been the case with him, sources say. Outside of Irving, the Nets’ most important free agent is guard Patty Mills, who still has not decided on whether to exercise his $ 7.2 million player option. Around the Irving drama, the Nets’ environment has made it harder to keep and court role players, sources say. “
It’s not Durant’s job to lure players to the Nets; that falls under the purview of general manager Sean Marks. Brooklyn doesn’t have a lot of salary-cap space to pursue major outside additions either.
Still, the team would probably prefer to have the 12-time All-Star playing a more active role as an emissary.
For a prospective free agent, it might mean more to hear Durant rather than Marks tell you how badly you’re wanted in Brooklyn. Durant might also be able to provide some reassurances amid the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Irving.
Multiple reports laid out the current divide between Irving and the team. The New York PostBrian Lewis followed up to report “both sides are still working to find a happy medium in Brooklyn rather than an exit strategy out of it.” Wojnarowski echoed that more optimistic tone when he wrote, “The preference for everyone — the Nets, Durant, and yes, Irving too — is getting an Irving deal done.”
Until Irving puts pen to paper on a new deal with the Nets, the chance remains that he could bolt. Were that to happen, it could have a massive domino effect for Brooklyn since the team would likely fall further from title contention.
Rivals are already smelling blood in the water, with Wojnarowski reporting some franchises are “rooting for Irving to opt-out and walk away from the Nets, believing it would give them a chance to cobble together trade packages to acquire Durant.”
Durant and Irving were a package deal when they signed with the Nets in 2019, and their fates probably remain tied together. If Irving goes, Durant may not be keen on sticking around since he’ll turn 34 in September and can ill afford to let 2022-23 turn into a lost season.
Whether that’s his intended message or not, Durant taking a more passive role this offseason could further the perception he, like Irving, is keeping his options open.