Woj: Owner Ishbia led Suns’ deal for Kevin Durant; backup plan was John Collins trade

Feb 9, 2023, 9:50 AM | Updated: 4:57 pm
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets holds off John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks during the sec...
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets holds off John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at State Farm Arena on December 28, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Newly appointed Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia led the charge in the team’s pursuit toward an agreed upon trade with the Brooklyn Nets, ultimately landing 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant, the team announced Thursday.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski was the first to report the news.

Not only that, but Wojnarowski adds that Phoenix’s newfound aggression under its fresh ownership had a backup plan: To work out a three-way trade with the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons that would ship forward John Collins to the Suns.

The Suns had been talking with Detroit about the possibility of acquiring Collins in a three-way deal with Atlanta, but Ishbia wouldn’t call it a night without making one more run at Durant.

Collins, who has been trade fodder with the Hawks dating back to last year’s deadline, had been linked to Phoenix loosely in the last several months. He has averaged 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

Phoenix had also engaged with Brooklyn regarding Durant on Monday and Tuesday before the trade deadline scheduled for 1 p.m. MST on Thursday. Those discussions had come to a halt, but Wojnarowski reports that Ishbia late Wednesday pushed Suns president of basketball ops and GM James Jones to connect with Nets general manager Sean Marks sometime after 9 p.m. MST.

Wojnarowski adds that owners Ishbia and Joe Tsai of the Nets “cobbled together the final elements” of the deal.

The Suns attempted to keep Bridges out of the trade, but as the key return chip after picks, that was a “non-starter” on the Nets’ end, per the report.

Among the late subtractions during the trade talks was Dario Saric, who heading into deadline day remains with Phoenix on a $9.2 million expiring contract. Trading him would have saved the team millions of dollars in luxury tax payments, but the Suns would have been required to toss in second-round picks to force his contract on the Nets.

Brooklyn felt pressure to deal Durant, according to Wojnarowski’s report. While Marks had pursued trades — adding Toronto forward O.G. Anunoby was discussed — to put a defensively impressive core around Durant, the star had become “unsettled” and had Phoenix atop his list of landing spots. Writes Wojnarowski:

The Nets had hoped they could get Durant to stay the course, but he wanted to go West — and wanted the Suns.

Ishbia knew Durant’s desire to head to the desert, according to Wojnarowski.

Ultimately, Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first-round picks (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029), plus a 2028 pick-swap were shipped to Brooklyn for Durant and T.J. Warren.

The amount of money added to the Suns’ luxury tax bill more than doubled, to $68 million for this season, according to ESPN.

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Woj: Owner Ishbia led Suns’ deal for Kevin Durant; backup plan was John Collins trade