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ESPN: Insiders Feel Kevin Durant Trade Request Is About Getting Kyrie Irving off Nets

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 19, 2022

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

There is reportedly some belief within the NBA that Kevin Durant had an ulterior motive for requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets.

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin on The Lowe Post (h/t HoopsHype.com), one "school of thought" in the league is that Durant asked for the trade as a means of pushing the Nets to trade Kyrie Irving rather than himself.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t ESPN's Tim Bontemps) reported last month that Durant's manager, Rich Kleiman, said Durant asked the Nets for a trade, and that general manager Sean Marks was working with him to make it happen.

Wojnarowski added that the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns were two of the top teams on KD's "wish list" of preferred destinations should a trade be consummated.

Despite Durant's trade request, there hasn't been much movement, and that could be a sign that he isn't going anywhere.

Last week, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on Get Up (h/t RealGM) that the Nets' preference at that point was to keep KD since the trade offers they received had not approached what they were asking for him.

One possible reason for that is the king's ransom the Minnesota Timberwolves parted with for All-Star center Rudy Gobert in a trade with the Utah Jazz.

The T-Wolves surrendered four first-round picks and several players for Gobert, and since Durant is a future Hall of Famer who averaged just shy of 30 points per game last season, the obvious belief is that he should command far more.

The issue with that, however, is there aren't many teams that have four or more first-round picks to trade plus young, promising players on top of that.

One of the teams that may have been able to trade for Durant, the Suns, made it far more difficult last week when they matched the Indiana Pacers' offer sheet for center Deandre Ayton.

Ayton would have made sense in a Durant trade since he is a young, talented player and a 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick, but now the Suns can't trade him until Jan. 15 at the earliest.

As for Irving, he made the somewhat surprising decision to opt into the final year of his contract with the Nets at a salary of $36.5 million despite rumors and speculation that he wanted out as well.

Wojnarowski reported at the time that before opting in, Irving submitted a list of teams to the Nets that he wanted them to explore sign-and-trade possibilities with. The only team on that list reportedly known to have mutual interest in Irving was the Los Angeles Lakers.

Irving could have opted out and signed with the Lakers in free agency, but he would have left roughly $30 million on the table since the Lakers are over the salary cap and only could have signed him to an exception.

Every indication is that the trade market for Kyrie has been tepid, with the Lakers perhaps being the only team willing to pursue him.

The issue with that is the Lakers don't have much they can trade for Irving, plus the Nets would likely have to take on the expiring contract of veteran guard Russell Westbrook to make the salaries work.

Irving is one of the best and most talented players in the NBA, but the seven-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion missed significant time because of injury in his first two seasons with the Nets.

Then, Irving was a distraction last season, as his decision to not receive the COVID-19 vaccine caused the Nets to sit him for much of the campaign since he would have been ineligible to play home games.

Brooklyn eventually activated him when injuries and positive COVID tests decimated its roster, but he only went on to play in 29 regular-season games.

On top of that tumult, the Nets traded All-Star guard James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers last season for a package headlined by guard Ben Simmons.

Simmons didn't play at all last season because of a back issue, and while his fit alongside Durant and Irving would have been intriguing, it's possible the trio will never see the court together.

Things have been status quo for the Nets on the trade front, but if the key to keeping Durant and making him happy is trading Irving, that is an avenue they have to explore even if it doesn't yield the preferred value.

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