NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are staying together.
A trade request that rocked the franchise and dominated NBA headlines was removed. The Nets will return next season with their all-star forward in uniform – and with championship hopes intact.
The Nets said Tuesday that the team’s leadership met with Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman in Los Angeles a day earlier and “agreed to move forward with our partnership,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
Marks attended the meeting along with trainer Steve Nash and owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai.
“We’re focused on basketball with a common goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn,” added Marks.
That’s certainly more likely by keeping Durant, who remains one of the top scorers in the NBA. He is slated to begin a four-year extension he signed last summer, and the possibility of him being traded was the biggest storyline in the NBA this summer.
It’s not known exactly why he sought a deal, which came at the end of a turbulent year in Brooklyn. The Nets, a championship favorite before the start of last season, barely made the playoffs and then were repelled by Boston in four games in the first round.
The Nets then refused to grant Kyrie Irving, Durant’s close friend, a contract extension, forcing him to exercise his option for next season, the final year of his contract.
Uncertainty surrounding Durant’s Brooklyn future likely contributed to the Nets being dropped from the five-game Christmas lineup and only scheduled to appear eight times on ABC and ESPN.
But with Durant, the Nets can still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He averaged a franchise-record 29.9 points last season and the Nets were bidding for first place in the East before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for 21 games.
The Nets will have a top trio with Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons, who is expected to return after not playing for the Nets last season following his trade from Philadelphia. Joe Harris will also be back after the two-time NBA leader in 3-point percentage was limited to just 14 games due to left ankle surgery.
It would have been hard for Durant to find many better situations, and the Nets likely had little interest in landing him one. Few teams could have offered the kind of trade package the Nets were looking for and still been able to remain a contender for the championship.
The Nets believed they built one in the 2020-21 season after acquiring James Harden to play with Durant and Irving. But they struggled with injuries throughout that season and were eliminated in seven games by eventual champion Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals, though Durant had 48 points in the final game, the most all-time in a Game 7.
Durant was brilliant again last season but failed to salvage a season marred by Irving missing most of Brooklyn’s home games because he refused to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Harden then asked to be traded and was traded to Simmons in February in the deal.
All of this likely frustrated Durant, who left Golden State in 2019 after two championships in three seasons to come to Brooklyn with Irving.
And now he will stay there.
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