Kevin Durant was said to be laughing after the Nets‘ practice Friday.
Given that his other two options were sadness and anger, it was probably a wise choice for his own well-being.
League sources have told Heavy Sports that reports of Kyrie Irving asking to be traded before next Thursday’s NBA deadline caught the club quite by surprise.
“People are walking around like, ‘What the f*** just happened?’ It’s crazy,” a source close to some of those in the organization told Heavy. “Crazy. But we’ve seen it before there, so nobody should be that surprised. Crazy.”
The Brooklyn players had been working under the assumption that Irving’s failure to get a contract extension in the offseason and subsequent inability to get the club to trade him were things of the past.
He’s averaging 27.1 points and, when the rotation is whole, has been one of the leaders of a group that seemed to be improving its postseason outlook. The Nets had won 18 of 20 games before Durant went out with a knee injury less than a month ago. That stretch came shortly after Kyrie had returned from a suspension for posting a social media link to an anti-Semitic film.
Kyrie Irving Had Been a Positive Influence
And whereas Irving had some issues with teammates in Boston and had frustrated those in Brooklyn with his anti-vaccination absences last season, he’d reportedly become a positive influence in the room. There were no problems, at least on the surface.
“No, not at all,” said a source. “He’s been … normal. He’s been normal. Everybody just saw this and was like ‘What the f***?’ But nothing around there should be surprising. Nothing around the league.
“He’s been the best teammate you could imagine. He’s been amazing as a teammate. Nothing. I mean, no sign of this even happening. No signs. There was no sign of this. Last year was tough, but he came around. It was like, ‘We good now.’ Guess what? No, we ain’t.”
While some teams are getting in touch with Nets GM Sean Marks to see what it would take to acquire Irving, others are merely shaking their heads.
“They were in a good spot,” said one exec. “They’d shown what they could do when they were together. They get KD back and they start rolling. That’s what it was going to look like. Then this s*** happens.
“It’s unfortunate for a team that’s in fourth place, because they suddenly become 12th.”
Teams Reluctant to Trade for Irving
Most clubs are understandably wary of taking on Irving and all the ancillary drama that comes with his talent.
“Someone like the Lakers may want to take on this kind of gamble, but, unless you can get him to extend his contract now, how can you be sure what’s going to happen after the season?” said one opposing executive. “But even then, can you trust it? Can you trust him?
“Hell, can the Nets trust him? They tried to extend him before, but now?”
One player source who knows Irving suggested that his latest move is designed to force the club’s hand and keep him in Brooklyn.
“Let’s see how this plays out,” he said. “What if this is just Kyrie trying to make them give him the extension? Imagine that? And if he gets it? It’d be a new technique for everybody. Who knows what he’s trying to do? But this would be gangsta. This would be some gansta s*** right there. Think of that. If you want a chance to win, you pay me. If you don’t, go f*** yourself.”
Then the source laughed. Just like Durant had done earlier in the day.