A timeline of Kevin Durant’s Nets’ tenure: From arrival with Kyrie Irving to his ultimatum

Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai may need to change his name to Joe Sigh after the offseason he’s had.

As we documented on June 30 and tried to explain a few weeks later, Kevin Durant has lost that loving feeling when it comes to the Nets organization. Right before free agency tipped off, Durant informed Tsai and the Nets front office that he would prefer to be traded by the team. The league went nuts with the breaking news, and we immediately saw trade scenarios get exhausted time and time again. Then things got quiet for a short while, that is, until Monday when reports of a meeting between Durant and Tsai surfaced.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the message from the meeting between Tsai and Durant was pretty clear: A trade needs to happen to send Durant elsewhere, or the Nets need to part ways with general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash.

That’s a pretty strong ultimatum from Durant’s side of things, openly challenging the power structure of the organization that exists between ownership and the players on the court. Marks has been seen as someone who revitalized the Nets organization after the infamous trade between Billy King and Danny Ainge back in the summer of 2013. The Nets’ attempt to catapult themselves into title contention fell well short, and they were left with an empty cupboard of first-round draft picks.

Marks took over the Nets front office in 2016. Within three full seasons, the Nets were back in the playoffs, and it looked like their culture was something that could attract free agents. And that’s when Durant and Kyrie Irving came into play. So, let’s take a look at the timeline from the moment Durant and Irving joined the team to the latest that has happened with the Durant ultimatum.

June 30, 2019: Durant and Irving sign with the Nets.

The season-long rumors of Durant departing the Golden State Warriors and Irving leaving the Boston Celtics to join forces in New York come to fruition. But instead of the duo joining the New York Knicks like so many assumed, Durant and Irving team-up on the Nets. Durant signs a four-year, $164 million deal in a sign-and-trade between the Warriors and Nets that sends D’Angelo Russell to Golden State. Kyrie signs a four-year, $136.5 million deal to join the Nets.

March 7, 2020: Kenny Atkinson is fired as Nets coach.

Despite Durant missing the entire season, the Nets decided to move on from Atkinson. Durant had publicly been excited about Atkinson as a coach when KD first joined Brooklyn. But at a certain point in the 2019-20 season, the fit with Atkinson as head coach was no longer popular. Some have credited Durant and Irving with the ousting of Atkinson. Some believe that Atkinson just had issues coaching the personnel on the team and not adjusting enough to what needed to be around the star players. Regardless, Atkinson was fired. Four days later, the pandemic shut down the NBA’s season for months.

September 3, 2020: Steve Nash is hired as Nets coach.

Roughly a week and a half after the Nets were eliminated from the 2020 NBA playoffs — having been swept by the Toronto Raptors — they hired Steve Nash to be the new coach, despite zero head coaching experience. Nash’s experience working as a consultant with Durant on the Warriors was believed to be a big selling point for making the inexperienced hire. Nash’s Hall of Fame playing career always included the idea that he was a coach on the floor, especially in his two MVP seasons. Nearly a month later, Irving stated, “And I think it’s also going to change the way we see coaches. I don’t really see us having a head coach.” Irving said he could be the coach, KD could be the coach or assistant Jacque Vaughn could be the coach. It was confusing.

December 22, 2020: Durant makes his debut with the Nets after healing from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

After missing roughly 18 months following the rupturing of his Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant finally made his debut with the Nets. He scored 22 points in just under 25 minutes as the Nets routed the Warriors 125-99. Kyrie had 26 points in the game. The KD-Kyrie era in Brooklyn was officially underway.

Kevin Durant returns to the court for the first time since the 2019 NBA Finals. (Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports)

January 13, 2021: The Nets trade for James Harden.

After an awkward and tumultuous start to the 2020-21 NBA season following a trade request away from the Houston Rockets, Harden got his wish by being dealt to the Nets. Brooklyn relinquished Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs, Taurean Prince, three first-round picks (2022, 2024, 2026), and four pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027) for Harden. It was supposed to form a big three in Brooklyn with so much offensive firepower that nobody could keep up with them.

June 19, 2021: The Nets lose Game 7 to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Durant had one of the most impressive seven-game losses in playoff history, and nearly eliminated the Bucks (eventual champs) when his shoe barely touched the 3-point line on an attempt at the end of regulation. Instead of being a series-winning 3-pointer, it was a game-tying 2-pointer. Bucks would go on to win in overtime. It wrapped up the first season for the Nets with this big three iteration with just 14 games played (including playoffs) and an 11-3 record. Harden and Irving played just four games each in the series, and Harden was heavily hobbled with a hamstring injury, so his games shouldn’t even really count there.

August 8, 2021: Durant signs a four-year extension with Brooklyn.

A sign of good things to come! Durant commits to the Nets for four years and $194 million. Now we just wait to find out when Irving and Harden commit to their contract extensions.

October 12, 2021: Nets announce Irving won’t play due to vaccinated status.

With Kyrie refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine despite a New York City mandate for workers, the Nets announce a week before the season begins that Irving won’t be playing until he’s fully eligible to do so. That meant either getting vaccinated or the city lifting the mandate. Irving was under the impression he’d receive an exemption, which did not happen. It was assumed the Nets would play him in road games, which did not happen initially. That is until…

January 5, 2022: Kyrie makes his season debut due to shortage of healthy bodies.

COVID-19 was running through the NBA and causing teams to sign as many 10-day deals for relatively local players as necessary for having enough bodies to keep the games running. As the Nets dealt with this issue of insufficient numbers of available players, they decided to pull back on their Kyrie decision and allow him to play on the road. He scored 22 points in just under 32 minutes in his season debut in a road victory over Indiana. It was one of two games on the season the Nets would have Durant, Harden and Irving on the court together.

Kyrie Irving scores 22 points in 32 minutes in his season debut vs. Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA TODAY Sports)

January 25, 2022: James Harden denies trade rumors.

Amid reports that Harden wanted to join up with Doc Rivers, Joel Embiid and his old pal Daryl Morey on the Philadelphia 76ers, Harden decided to address the situation with him, the trade rumors and the Nets team. This was his quote following a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers:

“I don’t know about any reports. There’s just a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason, injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. It’s frustrating, and I think everybody in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is, and we should be on the way up. So that’s all it is. I don’t know about any reports. If you didn’t hear it from me, I don’t talk to nobody. I don’t have an agent. If you didn’t hear it from me, then it’s reports.”

That settles that.

February 10, 2022: Harden gets his wish and is traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Harden declined a contract extension with the Nets and denied trade rumors, but he was moved to the Sixers along with Paul Millsap in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two future first-round picks.

April 25, 2022: The Nets are swept by Celtics.

The chaotic 2021-22 season comes to a close for the Nets when the Celtics swept them in the first-round of the playoffs. Durant shot under 40 percent from the field in the series, and Simmons never played a second of basketball for the team after the trade.

May 25, 2022: The Nets are unwilling to give Irving a contract extension.

It’s reported Tsai is unwilling to give Irving a contract extension because of his lack of availability this past season. It made it more difficult to commit years and hundreds of millions of dollars to Irving. After some flirtation with possible deals, the trade market for Irving is essentially non-existent barring a fascination by the Nets with Russell Westbrook (it didn’t exist). Irving opts in for the 2022-23 season, which was a $37 million player option.

June 30, 2022: Durant makes a trade request to Tsai.

As mentioned before, Durant requests a trade. Phoenix and Miami made up the early-reported lists as preferred destinations for Durant.

July 24, 2022: Reports of Jaylen Brown being included in a potential deal reignites trade rumors.

As teams like New Orleans and Toronto get bandied as potential spots for Durant (in addition to the Suns and Heat), we find out that Jaylen Brown has been included in a trade offer from the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics.

August 8, 2022: Reports of Durant giving Marks/Nash ultimatum to Tsai.

And here we are in present day! It’s either time to find a new coach and general manager, or it’s time to find a new home for Durant via trade.

Will there be more updates to this story soon? Will Durant get his wish, and either be traded away or see the firings of Marks and Nash? Tune in to The Athletic for more updates on the Durant saga in Brooklyn.

(Top photo of Kevin Durant: Photo by Sarah Stier / Getty Images)


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