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The Nets played with fire.  Now they’re about to get burned – The Denver Post

just like the Daily News reported on May 25, the Nets played with fire. And now, almost a month later, they’re about to get burned.

We already know the Nets were unwilling to give Kyrie Irving a long-term contract extension after playing a grand total of just 103 regular season games in his first three seasons in Brooklyn, and after his decision to failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 ruined the Nets’ championship hopes last season.

We also already know that Kevin Durant’s future is intrinsically tied to the decision made by Irving and the Nets. If Irving and the Nets can’t reach a deal that keeps the superstar in Brooklyn, Durant, who signed a four-year, $198 million extension last summer, will likely ask the franchise for a trade. managed to keep his co-star. in the city.

Now, according to ESPN, we know where Irving wants to be traded in case he and the Nets can’t agree: to one of the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Heat, Mavs or 76ers. Neither team has the cap space to sign Irving if he declines his player option by the June 29 deadline and tests free agency. And only two of those teams (the Lakers and Heat) have a star-caliber player (Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry) that the Nets could pair alongside Durant.

Which means we’ve reached the danger zone: the Nets traded the rights of all their picks through 2027, and Ben Simmons just had back surgery and hasn’t played basketball in an entire calendar year. . If the Nets can’t come to an agreement with Irving and Durant asks for a trade, it’s back to the 20- and 28-win seasons that Brooklyn came out of. It’s the return of ping-pong balls to the lottery with choices that don’t belong to them. It is the return to insignificance. He’s back to developing late first-round and second-round draft picks. It’s back to jokes about the absence of fans, as season ticket holders are already threatening to boycott Nets games due to soaring ticket prices for a franchise that may not have the stars she peddled.

Or, the Nets could come out of it. They could get out of this ego trip they have and give Irving whatever business he wants. They could give him a maximum four-year deal or a three-year deal with a games played incentive that triggers guaranteed money in years four and five. In May, a source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the nature of the negotiations told The News that the Nets wanted Irving to opt into the final year of his $36.5 million contract in order to to “prove” that he deserved a long-term contract. For a star player with a very real injury history, a one-year contract is a non-starter. It’s unclear if the Nets have changed their minds on the one-year position and offered more years, but judging by reports that the Nets and Irving have reached a “dead end” in contract talks. , it is fair to assume that the length of the contract is the sticking point. debates.

The best-case scenario for Brooklyn remains to give Irving a long-term contract and live and die with him and Durant chasing championships in the borough for the next four years. Rarely in NBA history have two players as talented as Irving and Durant joined forces in their bounties. It’s even rarer for a franchise to grope these stars of how the Nets are positioned if the front office can’t find a way to retain Irving for the long term.

It’s nearly impossible to find an alternate reality that gives the Nets an equal or better chance of winning a championship. And if the Nets play harder and don’t agree to sign and trade with a team that Irving likes, he can go into free agency and sign a max contract with a team that has cap space (the Spurs, the Pistons, Magic and Pacers can clear enough room to sign Irving with a max deal) with an agreement that he’s traded elsewhere in exchange for draft assets and young players after restrictions lift Dec. 15.

Here’s a friendly reminder: Even if Irving’s $36.5 million comes off the books, the Nets still don’t have cap space to sign a max free agent, or any impact player who commands more than the mid-level exception. It will be Durant and Simmons and the actors – who will eventually become just Simmons and the players who need to be developed.

The flip side is a future that includes Durant, Irving, Simmons and all the extra players the Nets think makes this team a contender. If Simmons is healthy — and after a year and a change away from basketball, he should be — the Nets could have the best line in all of basketball. They could use their three traded player exceptions to acquire impact players from other teams, and then also use their taxpayer mid-tier exception to make a meaningful signing. The Daily News reported Wednesday that the Nets are among teams interested in signing Durant’s friend PJ Tucker.

One thing is for sure: Tucker isn’t coming to Brooklyn if Irving isn’t there, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that if Irving isn’t in town, Durant might not be either. And if Durant is gone, so is everything the Nets have built.

Championship ambitions. The dedicated and growing fanbase. The belief that this organization can do the job. Three years later, they haven’t.

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