Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving long were believed to be a package deal this summer. The two superstars ultimately joined forces as seemingly everyone expected, but the pairing reportedly wasn’t always set in stone.
Durant and Irving wasted little time on the open market, each agreeing to join the Brooklyn Nets on the first day of NBA free agency. Irving signing with the Nets effectively was a foregone conclusion. Durant, meanwhile, appeared to have more options and definitely more to consider. We’ll likely never know how seriously the star forward considered other teams, but his wagon reportedly wasn’t hitched to Irving’s.
“Durant’s decision took longer,” Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix writes. “The Knicks were in play, though never to the all-but-done-deal extent that had been reported. So, too, were the Warriors, who could offer a five-year, $221 million contract — one year and $57 million more than Brooklyn could pay. What Durant wanted was simple. A good team. A strong, supportive environment. The Nets checked all the boxes. Durant’s decision was never directly tied to Irving’s, but the opportunity to play with his close friend certainly appealed to him.”
Mannix’s report seems to indicate Durant felt Golden State no longer “checked all the boxes,” and it’s not difficult to lay out possible reasons why. While the Warriors offered KD a chance to win, the team’s handling of his injuries in the 2019 playoffs might have frayed the sides’ relationship. The Nets will provide Durant with a fresh start and the opportunity to dominate a wide-open Eastern Conference.
We’ll have to wait some time for the true start of Durant’s tenure in Brooklyn, though. The two-time Finals MVP all but surely will miss the entire 2019-20 season after rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.