Give Kevin Durant this much credit: The man isn’t afraid to go to the mattresses.
But let’s let the praise, awe or understanding end there. Durant’s move this week to reportedly sit with Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and lay down a me-or-them ultimatum is the latest proof that the only thing Durant may excel at more than basketball is an uncanny knack for turning tone deafness into an art form.
He’s a diva-may-care. And Tsai has to tell the man the same word Nets general manager Sean Marks did, as we suggested here when news of Durant’s trade demand first surfaced, the word that has led to all this huffing and puffing to blow Tsai’s team down: No.
No, Kevin, you’re not in charge.
No, Kevin, we won’t blow up our team, or trade you, or — cue Durant’s latest would-be power play — fire all the adults in the room because they didn’t treat your tantrum like the world’s most sagacious reaction to difficulty.
Let’s hone in on why, in London, Durant reportedly told the Nets owner he must either trade him — or fire head coach Steve Nash and Marks.
It’s not, as Shams Charania reported for The Athletic, because Durant is “transparent and professional,” the description of the supposed mood of the high-powered confab. This is all happening, including the timing and tone of this news story, because Durant has too often made a habit of being neither transparent nor professional.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read this piece from Charania, a world-class NBA newsbreaker who himself has been transparent at times about his willingness to carry water for the sources who allow him to offer such accurate and valuable information, and deduce that Durant or those near him leaked the reporting in exchange for casting all this in a favorable light.
Thus, KD’s latest me-me-me-me move gets sold as an above-the-board powerbroker handling such difficulties with aplomb and maturity. Don’t buy it for a second.
Strip away the quid-pro-quo that is the heartbeat of breaking sports news, and “does not have faith in the team’s direction” actually translates to: Didn’t do my bidding.
As in: Durant demanded a trade, Marks said no, and the superstar, unaccustomed to that word, has responded with a next-level move. The choice now that it’s either him or them. Despite the details that, you know, exactly one year before the Tsai meeting, Durant signed a four-year, $198 million contract extension.
Durant isn’t just saying keep me or keep them. He’s saying, regardless of how newsbreakers try to present his latest diva-demand, either trade him — or make him the boss.
Look, Durant is a basketball player of otherworldly talent and dedication. His talent borders on the miraculous, and his love for the game is clear. He is also, when not going full diva, by all accounts a great guy. Human beings are complicated, and we can be many things at once: Talented, dedicated, hungry, kind, interesting, insightful, and full of petty grievances and insecurities.
None of this is to say Durant is a bad person, as if that has any place in a sports column. It’s to say that many all-time great players are remarkably awful string-pullers and would-be GMs. Look westward, Tsai, to the Los Angeles Lakers and one LeBron James for a real-world, real-time reminder.
Trade Durant (for the right price), or don’t. Believe in him, or decide you’ve had enough. But don’t allow Durant to burn everything down because last year was tough. Don’t let him hold you hostage because he didn’t get his way in demanding a trade that would devastate the Nets without a fair return. Don’t let him end the run of Marks, who has proven himself a great general manager, nor that of a Hall of Fame player in Nash who deserves more time to show what he can or can’t do as a head coach.
This is scorched-earth stuff. Things went bad, let me leave. You won’t just give me away, fire everyone. You won’t fire everyone, fine, time for the public-news-bomb-pressure campaign.
That’s the other part of this.
It’s beyond credulity to entertain the idea that Tsai or those around him leaked this news. There’s no need. The Nets owner doesn’t need to leverage himself by leaking a blockbuster bit of news in order to pressure himself. He’s the decision maker. So if this report from Shams came from Durant and the people around him — as seems quite clear, especially given the rosy presentation of Durant’s end of things — then KD went in 24 hours, straight from asking Tsai to fire Nash and Marks, to trying to publicly pressure Tsai to do it.
That’s a tantrum. Or hardball. Or both. But either way, it’s bad business, and there remains one word in response, either to trading a generational talent like KD for less than what you want in return, or in firing the GM who won’t do so, along with his hand-picked head coach: