The implosion of the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline was something a lot of people outside of the organization never saw coming. The team went on a 12-game winning streak earlier this season and was a legit threat to overtake the top seed in the Eastern Conference. But everything went haywire once Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the franchise just days before the deadline, an event Kevin Durant called a “huge blow” to the team.
“I was upset that we couldn’t finish. I thought we had some good momentum,” Durant said during his introductory press conference with the Phoenix Suns on February 16.
“We were finally building the culture that we always wanted. I felt like every game we were building our chemistry but I didn’t know what was going on with Kyrie and his situation with the organization. I didn’t focus on that. I focused on what we were doing on the court. It was a blow to our team. It took away our identity.“
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Kevin Durant Sounds off on Kyrie Irving’s Trade Demand
After opting into the final year of his contract over the summer, Irving was set to become a free agent this July. He entered the season knowing it was a prove-it year, as he had to show the Nets front office that he was worthy of receiving another max contract.
The star point guard constantly affirmed his allegiance to the franchise throughout negotiations. But as the season matured and there was no extension offer despite the Nets being among the top contenders, Irving decided it was time to rip the bandage.
Durant says learning of Kyrie’s trade request was “tough to stomach” for him.
“He was a huge, huge part of what we do. He’s a Hall of Fame player. A great, great player that can do everything on the floor. We relied on that. So without him, we didn’t have a clear identity. That was tough for me to stomach and I love playing with those guys throughout the year,” Durant added.
“I felt like we had dudes that were stepping up and doing stuff that they didn’t do on their previous teams. I enjoyed everything about it. It was tough not to finish the season. I just tried to move forward as quickly as I can and try to figure something out for myself, but also still focused on rehabbing and getting back. It all happened so fast but I’m glad it worked out this way.”
Kevin Durant Reflects on Time With Nets
Durant joined the Nets in 2019 when he was at a point in his career where his future was uncertain. He was coming off a career-threatening Achilles injury, and many were unsure if he would ever get back to the level of player that he had been since entering the league in 2007. But Durant returned from his injury perhaps better than he had ever been and was the cornerstone piece of a franchise with bright hopes of bringing a championship to New York City.
Things did not go as planned, and the Nets will forever be one of the biggest what-if stories in sports. But in his reflection on his time in Brooklyn, Durant remains grateful for everything.
“It was a lot of ups and downs, but I loved the grind, and everybody in Brooklyn loved the grind too, so I built a family over there. They gonna always be a part of my journey. We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish as far as winning a championship. But I enjoy the grind and everybody there,” Durant added.
“We tried our hardest every day, regardless of what was going on in the media, what was going on with our teammates. Everybody who was in that gym we grinding. So I love those guys. I get emotional talking about it because that was a special four years of my career, coming off an Achilles. They helped me through a lot.”