Suns’ James Jones: Kevin Durant trade with Nets required patience, luck

Feb 10, 2023, 5:03 PM | Updated: 6:55 pm
General manager, James Jones of the Phoenix Suns before Game One of the Western Conference Second R...
General manager, James Jones of the Phoenix Suns before Game One of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

These days, just about everything gets out. No information when it comes to potential trades is safe. The value of a good scoop is immeasurable.

That made it all the more surprising on Friday when a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst noted that Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant had requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Monday and specifically to the Suns. Everyone involved somehow kept that under wraps until Friday.

The story painted a detailed picture of how the negotiations went and ultimately got done.

That included the talks last offseason that didn’t really get that far.

Suns president of basketball operations James Jones spoke for the first time since the blockbuster deal that was the biggest story of the week during the same week as the Super Bowl.

“I really couldn’t get a good gauge in the summer,” he told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “My sense was they didn’t want to trade him, they wanted to explore and do everything they could to try and get a really good player, one of the greatest ever, to remain with the franchise. … When circumstances changed, I think they just felt it was best to move on.

“And they re-engaged. You never really know whether or not any of these things will get done but I was more confident this time than I was in the summer that we could get it across the finish line.”

Brooklyn was fortunate that Phoenix had still left its war chest of assets intact.

Jones was heavily criticized for doing this, not trading any draft picks in the offseason or during the regular season to upgrade a team that could still possibly win a championship this year. He had expiring contracts, including Jae Crowder’s, a player who stayed home all year while Phoenix sought out a trade for him.

The general manager said it was not just a Durant or bust situation and addressed that notion of his patience.

“If you hold out and think that I’ll just wait for that day to come, I think you’re actually foolish,” Jones said of Durant becoming available. “I don’t think that’s patience, I think that’s foolishness. So for us, it was trying to position ourselves to be ready if an opportunity like this presented itself and I think we were because we had all our draft picks, because we’ve been diligent with how we’ve built the team but more importantly just because as time has gone on I think we’ve established ourselves as a good franchise.

“And when you do that, great players want to be there and it makes it easier for you to make extremely tough decisions like we did when we had to include three guys that were instrumental for us when they have to be a part of a trade. You have to be patient, but you also have to get lucky.”

New owner Mat Ishbia was heavily involved in the process, per ESPN’s reporting, The re-engaged element Jones mentioned was a phone call between Ishbia and Nets owner Joe Tsai on Monday.

ESPN noted that, at a certain point, the deal was practically done until the Nets then asked for Crowder to be a part of it as well. Presumably, the expiring salary of Crowder was previously occupied by Dario Saric, who was later dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Phoenix wanted to hang on to Crowder, and rightfully so, given what it could use Crowder for on the trade market post-Durant trade to help rebuild some of Phoenix’s depth.

So then, that was the deal-breaker for most of Wednesday. That was, until Ishbia called Jones later that night and then the terms were finalized.

Jones told Burns & Gambo the Suns had a “multitude of options” and that he was “fairly confident they were going to do something major.” ESPN’s report indicates Atlanta Hawks big John Collins was someone Phoenix looked into and nearly had the construction of a three-team trade put together.

Jones discussed how Ishbia has been to work with at the start of his tenure.

“Mat’s been extremely supportive and collaborative in the sense that he brings a fresh perspective and desire to make decisions in the best interest of the franchise,” Jones said. “He said it before, it takes what it takes. We’re about winning. He wants to win and win at a high level and wants us to be an elite franchise. And the only way you can do that is you have to make big, bold moves. And he’s done that, he’s encouraged us to do that and we’ll continue to do that as long as he is on board with it.”

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