The Brooklyn Nets absolutely deserve this no-ring circus, and every absurd sideshow that defines it.
They deserve to be universally mocked after Kevin Durant followed up his trade demand with a vicious put-back dunk — one call for the firing of the general manager who hired him, and another for the head coach he got hired.
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In May, Sean Marks and Steve Nash announced in a news conference that it was time to dump their culture of superstar appeasement in favor of the old one, under deposed coach Kenny Atkinson, of player development and organic team-centric growth.
Over the weekend, The Athletic reported, Durant announced in a London meeting with Nets owner Joe Tsai that it was time to dump Marks and Nash in favor of replacements capable of driving a championship-level roster to a more desirable postseason location than a first- round sweep.
Durant has reportedly made these terminations the terms of his re-engagement, his only road back to Brooklyn, and on a certain level Tsai might feel tempted — despite tweeting out his support for the front office and coaching staff — to give him what he wants .
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After all, KD is better at his job than Marks and Nash are at theirs, and in a cold, cold business, a question needs to be asked: Who gives you a better chance to finally win a championship, Durant with a new head coach and GM, or Marks/Nash with whatever assets the Nets acquire in a KD deal?
They call the NBA a players league for a reason.
Basketball has fewer players in the arena than football, baseball, and hockey, adding more value to the individual juggernaut who can control the ball on nearly every possession.
Durant will go down among the top dozen or so all-time NBA greats, and even with his injury history at an opening-night age of 34, there really is no replacing him.
On the other hand, Durant has proven to be a less effective GM than Marks and one who shouldn’t be making personnel decisions.
As we’ve written before, KD executed one of the worst trades in league history when he exchanged Steph Curry and Golden State’s winning DNA for Kyrie Irving and a whole lot of problems to be named later.
Had Durant stayed with Curry and the Warriors, he ultimately would’ve won more rings than LeBron James’ four and climbed another step or three on the legacy ladder.
But Durant wanted to prove he could build his own winner, with Irving by his side, and what a colossal miscalculation it’s been.
Nobody blames the Nets for doing what they had to do to beat the Knicks and others in the free-agent race for Durant and Irving in the summer of 2019.
Smart people do blame them for taking on DeAndre Jordan at $40 million, for axing Atkinson, and for shipping out nearly their entire development system for 13 high-maintenance months of James Harden as part of the price of doing business with KD and Kyrie.
“The Nets should be fined by the league if they ever use the word ‘culture’ again,” said one prominent NBA source.
Of course, the Nets had already exposed their soulless core when they caved in on their initial COVID stance with the unvaccinated Irving, all in pursuit of on-court victories that wouldn’t come.
Tsai and Marks have found out the hard way that once you turn over your business to the talent, there’s no getting it back.
Durant hadn’t even started playing on his four-year extension worth nearly $200 million before he told the Nets he wanted to be somewhere else.
Right after Irving opted in, Durant opted out.
Though he pushed for his buddy Nash, a man with no coaching experience, to get the Nets job two years ago, KD now believes Nash has little idea what he’s doing. Beautiful.
After the Celtics swept his team in April, Durant was asked if he believed Nash was still “the right guy to lead this group.”
With a dose of incredulity he responded, “I mean, come on man. Like, yeah, Steve has been dealt a crazy hand the last two years, when he’s had to deal with so much stuff as a head coach, a first-time coach. He trades, injuries, COVID, just a lot of stuff he had to deal with, and I’m proud of how he just focused on his passion for us. And we’ll all continue to keep developing over the summer and see what happens.”
We all know what happened since that response.
The Warriors won another championship, beating the same team in the Finals that had embarrassed the Nets, and Durant decided to lash out.
He realized that Brooklyn was a million miles away from legitimate title contention — in large part because of deals and hires he notarized — and he wanted to get to a team that could cut off Golden State’s advance on more rings.
No, I needed to get to a team that could cut off Golden State’s advance on more rings.
Durant eventually realized the Nets’ asking price in a trade is so high, any team that lands him will be too depleted to win it all.
So in a brutally hot summer, he turned up the heat on Tsai by telling him he’d return if the owner makes Marks and Nash disappear. Durant is trying to will a trade into existence.
In the process, he has left the Nets looking like the kind of league-wide joke they often were in the bad ol’ days in Jersey.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been reposted with permission