Lack of accountability, team culture responsible for trade request – The Denver Post


Nets star Kevin Durant said he requested a trade from Brooklyn this offseason because of the uncertainty around the team – both its players and the direction of its culture.

Durant requested a trade twice this offseason, including a sit-down with Nets owner Joe Tsai in which he issues an ultimatum to either be traded or for both head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks to be fired. The Nets never found a deal for Durant that gave close to equal value for a two-time NBA Finals MVP and decided not to trade him.

“My whole thing was, I want everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player everyday,” Durant said at the HSS Training Facility on Monday, “and I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or these guys (the stars) aren’t around.”

Speaking to reporters for the first time since shortly after the Celtics swept the Nets out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Durant said he became concerned with the future of the team after last season disintegrated. He said he felt everyone top-to-bottom wasn’t being held accountable for what became another lost season that began with championship expectations.

“I mean, I’m getting older and I want to be in a place that’s stable and trying to build a championship culture,” he said. “So I had some doubts about that. I voiced them to Joe (Tsai), and we moved forward from there. But in my mind, I did like what we did, what Sean (Marks) put together this summer with the team. I knew that with all the adversity that we hit, and a lot of failures that we hit as a team last year, guys are gonna be working to get better and be better and try to not make that a trend. So, you know, in the back of my mind it was still there. And I had conversations with Steve, Joe, Clara and Sean. And we came to a mutual agreement that we should keep moving forward.”

Durant said when he signed his four-year contract extension worth $198M two summers ago, he did so with the idea that he’d still be playing alongside his friends Kyrie Irving and James Harden for the foreseeable future.

But the wheels fell off shortly after the Nets lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, with Irving’s unvaccinated status and ineligibility for home games complicating matters for Harden – who ultimately forced a midseason trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. When Durant missed a month-and-a-half of action with an MCL injury last season, the Nets tailspun from No. 1 in the Eastern Conference to as low as the 10th seed.

During that stretch, the Nets lost 11 games in a row – including several in which Irving and Harden played – and were effectively removed from championship contention by virtue of their poor seeding.

“I thought we could’ve fought through that (losing streak) a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more. When I went out with the injury, we lost (11) in a row, and I’m like ‘we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor,’ Durant said. “So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of stuff that I felt held us back.

“I didn’t like the fact that it’s like, ‘when KD comes back,’” he continued. “I get it. I know I can affect the game so much but like, what about these other guys that get an opportunity to maybe showcase what they can do but also help the team in a different way so when I come back I can jump on their train instead of them adapting to me? I just felt like that’s what great teams do. I’ve been a part of some great groups regardless of me being in that lineup or out. It’s not just me. Any guy being out of the lineup, the train keeps going, so I felt like we could have done that better and Steve (Nash) agreed with me.”

Durant also said Irving’s contract standoff with Nets management did not play a role in his request to ask for a trade. Irving’s camp and Nets brass could not come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension and the star guard ultimately opted into the final year of his contract. Durant requested a trade days after Irving opted in.

“I felt like their relationship, they had to figure that out on their own,” he said. “I’m not the liaison between Kyrie and the organization. I always told them that, I always told Sean and Kyrie ‘y’all gotta build your relationship how y’all do it’ because everybody’s separate, everybody’s different, you approach each player differently. So I didn’t want to get in between that. Whatever they negotiated, I had no talks in, and I let them handle that.”

Durant said he wasn’t surprised the Nets were unable to trade him after his request. The Nets balked at a number of underwhelming offers from Phoenix, Boston and New Orleans, and Durant said he appreciated the fact that Marks and Tsai didn’t trade him for pennies on the dollar.

“I know that you’re not going to just give me away,” Durant said. “‘You’re too great for us to give you away.’ Just that easy, that simple. I get that. I know who I am.”

Durant was complimentary of the moves Marks made with the roster this offseason. The Nets acquired vaunted 3-and-D wing Royce O’Neale from the Utah Jazz in exchange for a first-round pick. He also signed enforcer Markieff Morris, forward scorer TJ Warren and combo guard Edmond Sumner. Not to mention both Ben Simmons and Joe Harris will return from their respective injuries to kickoff this season.

What’s on paper, however, doesn’t always provide an accurate projection for a team’s ceiling. At the root of Durant’s trade request, he wants everyone to be accountable to playing at a championship level – every day. While the Nets struggled in games Durant missed, Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies finished the season with a 22-5 record in games the All-Star guard missed.

“I’ve been on championship teams, I’ve been on teams that’ve been right at the brink of winning a championship, and they (played well both with and without their stars),” he said. “So I wanted to be a part of a group that did that. Winning and losing, I could take all that. I’ve been in the league for a long time. So it’s not more so about just a result. It’s how we get to that point. And I wasn’t feeling how we were getting to that point. I didn’t want it to affect the game so I waited until the offseason to tell people how I felt.”



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