The Chicago Bulls made the call. They were told they “didn’t fit the profile”. That’s about as far as they got in their conversations – they likely couldn’t even be called negotiations – with the Brooklyn Nets in regards to disgruntled superstar Kevin Durant.
Durant’s initial trade request went public on June 30.
The 12-time All-Star later doubled down in a face-to-face with governor Joe Tsai. This time, he demanded for head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks to be fired if he is to stay.
As for the Bulls, it has long been presumed they simply didn’t have the requisite assets to land such a big fish. That idea was virtually cemented when the Minnesota Timberwolves traded a historic package for center Rudy Gobert. But the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley says that it didn’t take the Gobert trade – or any lack of assets – to cross Durant off of the Bulls’ wishlist.
He Doesn’t Like Who?
There were many connections and niceties spoken by Durant about the Bulls and what they have built under vice president Arturas Karnisovas. But those niceties, which included his ties to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, may not be enough to get past a potentially sour relationship.
His relationship with his former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan.
Cowley points out that Durant did, eventually, own up to his admission and even apologized for naming names.
“I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter,” Durant said during the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in 2017, “I do regret using my former coach’s name and former organization that I played for. That was childish. That was idiotic, all those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologize for doing that.’’(h/t Joe Cowley/Chicago Sun-Times)
While Donovan has only had nice things to say about his former franchise player, it is important to note Durant’s tweet said that he did not enjoy playing for Donovan. His apology was for mentioning him by name.
Durant can certainly like Donovan as a person while still not wanting to play for him. Those are two separate and very different things.
Billy Donovan’s Reputation
Cowley also points out that Durant has proven that, despite what he may say, he can certainly hold a grudge.
“If he didn’t like playing for Donovan in the low-pressure environment of Oklahoma City,” Cowley asks, “why would he like playing for him in the shadows of the Michael Jordan statue after all but holding the Nets hostage for a trade?”
He has a potentially similar situation with the Nets who have yet to acquiesce to his request.
But a better question might be whether or not Durant’s opinion of Donovan will hinder the Bulls’ future recruiting efforts. Perhaps it already has.
Their Big 3 consists of DeRozan, LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.
That is a player that most analysts considered to be washed, one that was already in Chicago when Karnisovas took over, another player they trade for that some are now calling a sunk cost after a down season.
And we know they missed out on at least one of their rumored targets this summer, though, Donovan has never been cited as a reason.
DeRozan has also called his first season in Chicago perfect and they just re-signed LaVine to the riched contract in franchise history. While the money is nice, LaVine was an unrestricted free agent and could have gone anywhere that had an interest which was more than a few teams.
Bulls Lack Assets
The Bulls’ odds of landing Durant have taken quite the slide since Durant first requested out. Since then, the stalemate has spawned hopes that the Nets’ asking price would come down. Their request to the Boston Celtics, who are Durant’s top destination, was for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.
Even if they were his preferred destination, the Bulls would still fall well short of the windfall Brooklyn is certain to get in return for Durant.
“The Bulls did their due diligence last month and at least made a phone call to Brooklyn, but they were told they didn’t fit the profile of what the Nets wanted back, i.e., draft picks.”
Chicago still owes their first-round picks in two of the next three drafts and, per the NBA’s Stepien Rule, they cannot trade their own first-round pick until 2027. Protections on the pick in 2025 mean it is not guaranteed to convey to the Spurs.
The Bulls could lift those protections enabling pick swaps. They also have an incoming first from the Portland Trail Blazers.
But their picks package is still too light and the Blazers’ first is also lottery-protected.
“Brooklyn reportedly is looking for All-Star-caliber players and a boatload of draft picks. So while DeRozan, Vucevic, Patrick Williams, and three draft picks for Durant and Seth Curry might flash green on ESPN’s trade machine, it’s a fairy tale in the real world.”
It would also go against the ethos of this offseason and, as Karnisovas has proven, he will give his plan time to play out before making another rash of moves.