Nets owner sides with Marks and Nash
Durant reportedly asks Tsai to choose between him and staff
Do you want them, or do you want me?
That’s the option Kevin Durant reportedly gave Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai recently at a meeting in London, ESPN confirmed.
Thus far, Tsai is sticking with “Them”, meaning general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash, both of whom have bent over backwards to help Durant win a championship here in Brooklyn.
The former two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player made his intentions to be traded clear after the Nets failed to sign Kyrie Irving to a long-term deal this summer.
Instead, Irving opted into his $36.5 million option for next season while Durant made it be known he wasn’t long for Brooklyn, and reiterated his desire to leave again on Monday.
Tsai apparently isn’t into appeasing his biggest star and one of the best players of his generation.
“Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets,” Tsai tweeted Monday.
Though no deal has been made and only rumors of his departure have swirled, Durant clearly isn’t happy here anymore, even if he might get stuck playing one more year at Downtown’s Barclays Center if Marks is unable to get back good value in a swap.
Nash, who worked alongside Durant as a special advisor in Golden State, has yet to take Brooklyn past the Eastern Conference semifinals at the helm, far short of the projections for this loaded roster.
But the Nets fell into disarray last season when the unvaccinated Irving played in less than 30 games and exclusively on the road until New York City eased its COVID-19 restrictions at Barclays in March.
With Durant sidelined by a knee injury, Brooklyn went into a 3-14 funk that dropped it from the top spot in the East on Jan. 22 to an eventual No. 7 seed.
A disgruntled James Harden forced his way out of our borough and to Philadelphia with a trade-deadline deal in February that brought back Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.
However, Simmons never played due to mental health and back issues and the Nets were unable to regain the steam that had them vying for the best overall record in the game.
Though the Nets managed to win a play-in game over Cleveland, they lost four straight to Boston in the opening round of the playoffs despite having both Durant and Irving healthy and ready to go.
The 33-year-old Durant still has almost $200 million over four years left on his contract, but he’s indicated since the end of June that he’d rather play elsewhere.
Irving, who has been rumored to be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers throughout the summer, is still expected to be on the roster if a deal can’t be worked out for an expiring contract.
“This needs to be a two-way street,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last month of the Nets’ perplexing situation. “Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players and the expectation is, in return, they will meet their end of the bargain.
“I’m realistic that there’s always conversations that are going to go on behind closed doors between players and their representatives and the teams,” Silver added. “But we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.”
Will Durant be back next season for another shot at Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since 1955?
According to Tsai, that will only happen if he agrees to play under the current regime of Marks and Nash.
On the women’s pro circuit, reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Sabrina Ionescu did all she could to keep the New York Liberty in the playoff hunt Monday night in Dallas, but it just wasn’t enough.
The All-Star point guard had a season-high 32 points, including 18 in the third quarter, to go with seven rebounds and four assists, but the Liberty got outplayed in the fourth quarter en route to an 86-77 loss to the Dallas Wings in front of 3,036 fans at the College Park Center.
Minus All-Star forward Natasha Howard due to an ankle injury, the Liberty (13-20) got 19 points from Marine Johannes off the bench.
However, no other New York player scored more than five points in the team’s second consecutive defeat.
Ionescu, who shot 8-of-21 from the floor and hit all 12 of her team’s free throws, buried one of her four 3-pointers to give the Liberty a 64-60 lead with 38 seconds left in the third.
But the Wings (17-16) outscored New York 25-13 the rest of the way for their season-high fifth straight win.
The loss dropped the Liberty just out of the playoff picture into ninth place, one full game behind Phoenix (14-19) and Atlanta (14-19) for the final two postseason spots. Minnesota is also tied with New York at 13-20.
The Liberty will take on the Wings again Wednesday before heading to Atlanta Friday and hosting the Dream in Brooklyn on Sunday in the regular-season finale.
Marina Mabrey scored a career-high 31 points for the Wings, who clinched a playoff berth and can nail down the No. 6 seed with a win over New York on Wednesday.
Though she is displaying the transformational talent that made her the top overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, becoming the franchise’s single-season leader in assists with 208 Monday, Ionescu still hasn’t made the Liberty serious contenders for the crown.
It will likely take three wins and some help to get that done this summer, beginning Wednesday night in Dallas.
“I don’t think anyone on this team would be here if we didn’t have each others backs, regardless of the standings,” insisted Ionescu, the first WNBA player with at least 500 points, 200 rebounds and 200 assists in a season.
“We have one another,” she added. “That’s all we have to rely on.”
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