The San Juan Daily Star
Nets agree to trade Durant, signaling end of star-studded era
By Tania Ganguli
The Brooklyn Nets’ era of superstars appears to be over.
The Nets have agreed to trade Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns for a package of players and first-round picks, according to a person familiar with the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. The agreement was reached only days after the Nets traded star guard Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks.
The trades will effectively draw the curtain on a brief, hopeful but ultimately unsatisfying era in Brooklyn in which the Nets gathered elite players like Durant, Irving and James Harden and cultivated hopes of multiple NBA championships. Instead, the franchise endured a series of bitter standoffs, ugly headlines and playoff disappointments with its stars, and one by one let them go.
On Wednesday night, 3 1/2 years after he and Durant signed as free agents, and almost a year to the day since they offloaded Harden to Philadelphia, Irving fired a final shot over his shoulder at his former team upon learning that the Nets planned to trade Durant too.
“I just am glad he got out of there,” Irving said.
In exchange for Durant, the Nets will receive forwards Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder, along with four first-round draft picks and the right to swap another future first-round pick. The Suns also will receive forward T.J. Warren from the Nets.
The agreement was first reported by The Athletic early Thursday.
The news broke as Irving was preparing to meet with reporters after his first game with the Mavericks, a 110-104 victory against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
“We had a lot of conversations throughout the year of what our futures were going to look like,” Irving said of Durant. “There was still a level of uncertainty, but we just cared about seeing each other be places where we can thrive. And whether that be together or that be apart, there’s never been one moment where I felt like he’s been angry at me for decisions I made or I’ve been angry at him.”
The Nets introduced Durant and Irving as the marquee members of a franchise-altering free agency class in the summer of 2019. The team later acquired Harden from the Houston Rockets in January 2021, creating the kind of superteam that most agree is required to win titles in the modern NBA. While their talent was never questioned, their teams never lived up to those big expectations.
“We played very limited time together,” Irving said. “There were a lot of injuries and things that took place. I would have liked to see that work for the long term.”
Irving’s own decisions played a role in those separations. He appeared in only 29 games during the 2021-22 season, mostly because he declined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, which was required in a New York City mandate for many private sector employees at the time.
Then this season, the Nets suspended him for eight games after he posted a link to an antisemitic film on his social media accounts and then refused to disavow antisemitism or apologize for posting the link. While he was in and out of the team, Durant also missed many games because of injuries.
Instead of winning championships together, all three stars eventually requested trades. Harden’s request came first, and he left for Philadelphia last year.
Durant asked to be traded over the summer — he and the Nets eventually made an uneasy, and ultimately temporary, peace — and Irving asked to be moved within the past few weeks.
On Tuesday, in his first comments since the trade, Irving said that he had felt disrespected by the Nets’ front office, which in his view had not been honest with him.
“I know I want to be in a place where I’m celebrated and not just tolerated or just kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected,” Irving said Tuesday.
The Nets never advanced past the Eastern Conference semifinals during Irving and Durant’s three full seasons on the team. The Boston Celtics swept them in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Phoenix reached the deal to acquire Durant a day after the NBA board of governors approved the sale of the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury to Mat Ishbia, a billionaire mortgage lender who purchased a majority stake in the team from Robert Sarver. Sarver sold the team after an NBA investigation found that he had engaged in workplace misconduct, including using racial slurs for Black people and demeaning women during his tenure as team owner.
Ishbia, during his introductory news conference Wednesday morning, said he wanted to “think big” about the Phoenix teams.
“How do we make these the elite franchises in the NBA and WNBA?” he asked. “I want to make it so that everyone looks at the Mercury and the Suns as the best.”
On the Suns, Durant will play alongside a talented young scorer in Devin Booker and an experienced point guard in Chris Paul. He and Irving should collide regularly now that both are in the Western Conference.
Lakers agree to trade Russell Westbrook in a 3-team deal
In another multiple-roster shakeup, this one entirely in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to trade guard Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz as part of a three-team deal, according to three people familiar with the trade who were not authorized to speak about it publicly.
As part of the exchange, the Lakers will receive Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, whom they drafted No. 2 overall in 2015 then traded away after just two seasons.
The agreement was first reported by ESPN.
The deal will end Westbrook’s tumultuous, and brief, tenure with the Lakers. The Washington Wizards traded Westbrook to the Lakers before the 2021-22 season, giving the Lakers high hopes that he would be part of a so-called superteam with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. To acquire Westbrook, the Lakers traded multiple players who were crucial to their championship run in 2020. It didn’t pan out.
Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and the 2017 Most Valuable Player, is versatile and athletic at his best, easily able to fill up box scores. But in Los Angeles, he struggled to adjust to coming off the bench and not being the primary ballhandler.
The Lakers (25-30) are out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, despite their championship aspirations. Westbrook averaged 16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game off the bench for the Lakers this season.
The Westbrook trade will also send to the Jazz forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, center Damian Jones and a first-round pick in the 2027 draft.
The Jazz will send Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers, and they will trade Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Minnesota.
Sopan Deb contributed to this report.