The Brooklyn Nets had the best odds to win the championship this season. The oddsmakers were confident that Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving would dominate their competition and reach the promised land.
However, the Nets were a dysfunctional group all season. Harden showed up to training camp out of shape and wound up requesting a trade, Irving only played in 29 games since he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and Durant suffered a knee injury, limiting him to 55 games.
The Nets made the 2022 playoffs as the seventh seed and faced the Boston Celtics in the first round. They got swept in four games and former Nets star Kenyon Martin believes Durant should either request a trade from Brooklyn or force the organization to move on from Irving this summer.
“If not him (Irving), then trade me (Durant),” Martin said on Sirus XM NBA Radio about what Durant should tell the Nets this offseason. “We understand people, there’s individual things, we as athletes are selfish to a certain degree, but when that selfishness comes before our team and what we’re trying to accomplish, then it’s a problem.”
Durant and Irving signed four-year deals with the Nets in the summer of 2019. Martin, who averaged 15.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in 283 games with the Nets, thinks Durant made a mistake teaming up with Irving.
Martin: Durant Made Mistake Playing with Irving
“I would’ve had a major, major issue with Kyrie Irving if I was Kevin Durant,” Martin said. “Because I personally, if I’m Kevin Durant, I could’ve went anywhere else. I could’ve went anywhere else and picked anybody else to play with, but we made this decision together to come here and do this, and this season, you failed me as a friend, as a teammate, as a brother, as a competitor. All of those things you failed me at and ain’t no way I’m out here creating handshakes with you when you did that to me.
“We signed up for this together and you said, ‘I want to give a voice to the voiceless. I wanna give a voice to the people who don’t have a voice and all of this.’ Okay, cool. What about us? What about these guys? What about these people who you signed up to compete with, who you signed up to do this with? What about us? So we’re just supposed to sit back and accept this? Like, nah, that was unacceptable for me in that regard. So yes, I think he (Durant) did pick the wrong situation, especially where he came from. Like, he could have stayed in Golden State and they could have ironed out their differences and they could have ran through the league for the foreseeable future, but he made the decision to come to play with Kyrie.”
Irving has a player option worth $36,503,300 for next season. If he declines it, the one-time champion becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, but Irving sounded like a guy who will be back with the Nets in 2022-23 unless Brooklyn trades him or doesn’t offer him a new contract if he chooses to decline his player option.
Irving Talks Future
Irving told reporters that he’s not going to abandon Durant — who is his best friend — after the Nets got swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together,” Irving said. “Alongside [owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks], just our group of family members in our locker room, in our organization. So it’s not just about me and Kev, I don’t want to make it just about that, we’re cornerstones but we have a few other guys on contract. I think we’ve just got to make some moves this offseason, really talk about it, and really be intentional about what we’re building and have some fun with it, make it enjoyable.”
It’s doubtful Durant will listen to Martin and request a trade from the Nets or urge management to get rid of Irving. However, it’s notable that Martin is throwing that opinion out there.