The Seven-Eleven Era has come to an end.
Superstar forward Kevin Durant has requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, the Daily News has confirmed, which means Brooklyn’s championship window has come to a close. The Nets are also continuing to work to trade Kyrie Irving, the News can also confirm, which means the Durant-Irving era will end with one playoff victory and one first-round sweep in their three seasons in Brooklyn.
Durant’s official trade request was first reported by ESPN on Thursday.
The News was first to report of this potential eventuality—Durant requesting a trade from Brooklyn—if the Nets chose not to give his co-star Irving a long-term deal. The Nets were “outright unwilling” to do so, as the News reported in May, and Irving ultimately opted into the final year of his contract worth $37M. Durant requested a trade on Thursday after Irving and the Nets failed to reach an amicable solution. The Daily News can confirm the Phoenix Suns as Durant’s preferred destination and the Los Angeles Lakers as Irving’s.
The Nets will be able to recoup draft assets and young players in deals for Irving and Durant and will be able to re-tool in the coming years. They are reportedly looking to recoup an All-Star caliber player and a significant haul of draft compensation in a deal for Durant. Irving’s trade market remains unclear, and sources maintain the Nets have no interest in recouping Russell Westbrook and his $47M contract in a deal with the Lakers.
Durant’s trade request sets the table for a seismic power shift the likes of which the league has not seen. There is a precedent with which a superstar has requested a trade only to stay and win later: the late great Kobe Bryant, who requested a trade on Los Angeles radio and said he’d “rather play on Pluto” than return to play for the Lakers. The Lakers did not trade him and Bryant went on to win a championship the following season.
This, however, is not that. Durant never spoke to the Nets front office until requesting a trade directly through Nets owner/governor Joe Tsai. The organization’s refusal to give Irving a long term deal crippled Durant’s belief that it would do what it takes to win a championship. Durant said he and Irving’s friendship goes far beyond basketball, and the two remain open to playing together if the Nets can find a trade to make it happen, according to a source.
Blame for this failed situation also falls squarely on Irving’s shoulders. Had he not taken two weeks off due to the Jan. 6 2021 insurrection at the nation’s capital, and had he not shown blatant disregard for the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols by not wearing masks to public gatherings, his decision not to get vaccinated amid a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic may have been viewed in a vacuum.
Instead, the Nets became fed up with Irving’s lack of availability and perceived commitment to team success. They leaked to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that they were willing to part ways with both Durant and Irving if it meant re-instilling that once vaunted Nets’ culture.
And now, we’re here. The Nets valued that culture more than the actual championships teams pursue. They will likely find a trade soon for Durant, and then for Irving, that returns young players—possibly even an All-Star level player—but not a team nearly in position to compete for a championship.
Three years after the “clean sweep” that landed Irving and Durant in Brooklyn, the Nets only have Ben Simmons to show—and Simmons is coming off back surgery and has not played a basketball game in longer than an entire calendar year. Quite frankly, the Nets went from being perpetual championship contenders with Irving, Durant and James Harden to developing young players and hoping they will contend for the playoffs next season.
And now the playing field is truly set. Free agency has begun and the league’s best players have already found new homes. And after this debacle, it’s unclear if any of the league’s best players will ever re-sign in Brooklyn given management couldn’t keep the best players in franchise history content.
They can, however, sell that good ‘ole Nets culture that is sure to help fill the seats at Barclays Center for season ticket holders who purchased season-tickets after seeing promotional material with Irving and Durant on the cover.