Kevin Durant’s exit could get messy for Nets, maybe Suns, too

Aug 9, 2022, 5:04 PM
Kevin Durant attends "NYC Point Gods" premiere at Midnight Theatre on July 26, 2022 in New York Cit...
Kevin Durant attends "NYC Point Gods" premiere at Midnight Theatre on July 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Kevin Durant is all fingers. The Nets are all buttons. The pushing has begun.

If there is a master plan for the Suns to acquire a third future Hall of Fame player and create the most hated super team in NBA history, it’s time to buckle up.

Durant raised the stakes with a brilliant, disgusting tactical maneuver. He asked for the termination of his head coach, a two-time NBA MVP; and his general manager, who did everything Durant asked and then some. Never before has an empowered, entitled NBA superstar had the gall to ask for multiple heads on a platter.

Durant’s hypocrisy is staggering for a player who recently signed a four-year extension with the Nets only to bail at the first sign of trouble. It didn’t take long for Nets owner Joe Tsai to voice his clear support of Steve Nash and Sean Marks, which means Durant failed to make a compelling case for their ouster.

Durant’s maneuver was so icy and ruthless that it likely has nothing to do with Brooklyn whatsoever. It speaks to his obsession to be elsewhere. Phoenix?

There are some who believe the Suns do not have the requisite pieces or mojo to strike a deal with the Nets. And there are some who believe the Suns and Durant are manifest destiny, that the team is just biding its time, waiting for the fireworks to begin.

By my calculations, there is only one way Durant lands in Phoenix. There must be a second act of petulance even worse than the first. He must eliminate all other suitors (Miami, Boston, Toronto) with his bad attitude, and essentially force the Nets to take a suboptimal deal from the Suns.

And that only happens if he doubles down on his jerkish behavior. By holding out of training camp for a while. By finally showing up and causing a scene. Picking fights with teammates and calling out his coaching staff, like Jimmy Butler famously did in Minnesota. Durant must bring the daily drama, exhausting everyone in the vicinity.

The Nets claim to have leverage and four years of contractual control. Deep down, they know they must trade him as soon as possible before he further undermines the head coach and general manager. So how far is Durant willing to go to get to the desert?

The longer the saga drags, the more tenuous the vibe will become in Phoenix, where Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and Deandre Ayton must all be wondering about their fate. Crowder has already cryptically tweeted his desire for a new beginning. Bridges knows his name is always present in the Durant-to-Phoenix trade scenarios.

It will be even stranger for them if they believe Booker and Paul are eagerly awaiting Durant’s arrival and no longer invested in them. If the Suns are truly out of the running for Durant, it would be wise to commit publicly to the existing core of this team, to soothe all concerns.

It’s also notable that the Suns are no longer on the short list of contenders because Suns GM James Jones always does his best work from the shadows. His greatest shots are never fired from the bow. At his very best, you never see him coming. And maybe we’re about to find out that we’ve been Durant’s obsession all along.

Raise your tray tables and seats to full, upright position, just in case. The landing might get bumpy.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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