In his quest to bring a championship to the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant starts the season 0-1 – CBS Sports

In his quest to bring a championship to the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant starts the season 0-1 - CBS Sports

Kevin Durant lost.

That is the excerpt from the statement Tuesday of the Brooklyn Nets announcing that the organization and its disgruntled superstar had “agreed to move forward with our partnership” following a meeting in Los Angeles between the two sides.

This is the partnership that just a few weeks ago Durant demanded be dissolved so he could be sent to the team of his choice. It was a meeting that had the owner, Joe Tsai, and the two men Durant had demanded to be fired if he stayed — head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.


Now the would-be divorcees claim they are “focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: to build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn.”

That’s an astonishing drop for Durant, and a seismic shift from the normal course of things when NBA superstars make demands, no matter how far-fetched they seem at the time.

Perhaps two of the most glaring examples of player power gone mad were near and dear enough to the Nets that they finally had enough — for themselves and, perhaps now, in a power shift in the NBA at large. First it was James Harden flying from Houston, and then, ironically, from Brooklyn, then landing in Philly. And, second but tied, was Ben Simmons, who refused to play for the Sixers and headed to Brooklyn, where … he still hasn’t played a single minute of basketball.

Both players got what they wanted. So have almost every other superstar when unfortunate — a list at one time or another that included Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and others.

There is now a precedent for teams looking to wrestle back some of the supremacy, a move made possible largely by the ham-fisted way CD has run things. Power is a formidable weapon when used wisely, for if one does not know how to manage it, one may suddenly find it in the hands of another.

When this mess first unfolded in July with Durant’s first now-failed ultimatum, we argued that the Nets, for various reasons, simply should. tell him no. That’s as true now as it was then, but Durant certainly made it easy for Brooklyn to do it.

This is a world-class player with four years left on his contract, one who was always far less likely than Simmons to miss time because, as anyone in the NBA will tell you, Durant loves to hoop. It’s a passion, commendable and a key component of his all-time greatness, and he’ll likely never willingly lose time from the game he loves.

That was the first point in the Nets’ favor. It also helped that Kyrie Irving’s failure meant the Nets would always look to resolve the Durant situation first and — just as importantly — require a sizable return to dismantle a team with the high expectations that come with a Durant-Kyrie pairing.

This was not some squad with a single superstar and no real championship path forward, as with, for example, the Denver Nuggets team Carmelo Anthony forced his way out of a decade ago. The Nets were a contender, at least on paper, and that meant Marks had to get the right return to save his own job.

Sometimes, when you don’t have a choice, you have a strange kind of freedom. That’s where the Nets GM found himself.

All this was lost on Durant when he unwisely went to London and told Tsai that the owner had to choose between him and Nash and Marks. Here’s a good rule to live by: Don’t try to strong arm billionaires.

Then, still failing to read the situation accurately, Durant or those around him clearly leaked the ultimatum, trying to put pressure on Tsai to bend to his will. A second rule to live by, closely related to the first: Do not then try to pressure those billionaires in public after the private strong-arm tactic has failed.

Now, it’s true, both sides still get something out of this other than the make-believe-we’re-all-in-this-together farce they’re trying to sell. While Durant could still be a Net this season, it’s not a lock, and each side can gain something from the other in this setup.

This statement is a perfect way for Brooklyn to tell the Grizzlies, Celts, Suns, Heat, and any other potential suitor who dreamed of a CD acquisition, that the price is the price. Brooklyn has used those teams publicly, and forcefully, with the best tool to get the Durant deal they want — the threat he will remain.

That, Durant & Co., is how you do it.

And Durant gets something too. He reaches for a ring. He is preparing for an NBA season, most likely with the Nets but possibly still elsewhere, with a (less) entertaining training camp and a clear focus on basketball being the keys to having a solid start. He loves the game, and he can keep playing it, and that’s something.

But don’t let the news obscure the fact that Durant lost the very public battle he started in the most public of ways.

The coach he demanded will continue to be his coach. The GM he demanded to be fired is still in charge. The team he refused to be a part of currently still retains his services. And the team owner he looked up to muscle showed him exactly what cut-throat power looks like.

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