Report: Durant not recruiting free agents to Brooklyn this offseason, is that Irving related?
Two things should have long been clear to anyone following the Kyrie Irving contract saga:
1) Irving’s best leverage in negotiations is not his considerable skill when he does decide to play, but rather his relationship and partnership with franchise cornerstone Kevin Durant. Durant and Irving are tight, and the Nets want to keep Durant happy.
2) A lot of other teams would love to see the Nets blow up and Durant to ask for a trade.
Adrian Wojnarowski tied all that together in a story at ESPN on the game of chicken that is the Irving contract negotiations. Woj also had interesting new information: Durant is taking a much more passive role in recruiting free agents to Brooklyn this summer.
We don’t know for sure who Durant has and hasn’t spoken to this offseason, and we don’t know if a quieter Durant is tied at all to Irving’s contract status or something else. There’s a lot of speculation in the idea an unhappy Durant is not talking up his team and the next step is him asking out. However, it’s also safe to say that if Irving did become a free agent and left and/or forced a sign-and-trade — most likely to the Knicks, it’s far more probable than a deal with either Los Angeles team — Durant would be very unhappy.
Brooklyn could bring back a core of Durant, Irving, Ben Simmons and Joe Harris next season, with role players such as Seth Curry, Patty Mills (if he opts in), and Cameron Thomas, plus others they sign with the taxpayer mid-level exception and minimum contracts. There’s not much margin for error with that group, but if things break right they are a contender. If the Irving situation is settled and he is back in the Nets’ fold — still the most likely outcome of all this drama — then maybe Durant will help recruit some veterans to help round out the roster.
All this drama is about Irving trying to create leverage after playing in 45% of the Nets games since he came to Brooklyn. The Nets organization is frustrated and wants a shorter deal; Irving wants a longer-term contract. Right now it’s a game of chicken, but the smart money is still on them finding common ground and getting a deal done.