The Brooklyn Nets are blowing it all up. After they refused to give Kyrie Irving a long-term max contract extension, dared him to find a different team that wanted him, and then watched him opt in to his $37 million player option, the Nets received a trade request from Kevin Durant on Thursday. It blows up any carefully-laid plans Brooklyn may have had and sends the rest of the league scrambling as everybody tries to figure out if they can land KD on a four-year deal that starts next season.
The Nets will trade Durant for the highest return possible. He doesn't have a choice in the matter without a no-trade clause and half the league's teams would move heaven and earth to acquire him on a long-term deal. Nobody knows yet where he'll go, but there's no doubt he's gone. The real question is what will happen with Kyrie.
Before Thursday afternoon, Kyrie was a necessary evil for Brooklyn. He's unreliable and apparently unafraid to battle in the public eye. His contract negotiations were ugly. Yet as long as he stayed, so did Durant, even if Kyrie was unhappy about how things unfolded. That is no longer the case. The Nets have no incentive to keep Kyrie and all his baggage around. In fact, they're now incentivized to ditch him in order to reset the locker room culture and get whatever they can back for him so they can remain competitive -- a priority given they owe all their picks to the Houston Rockets.
This paves the way for Kyrie to end up in Los Angeles alongside LeBron James in Lakers purple and gold. This was the favorite rumor of NBA discussion circles last week when the Nets told the point guard he could try and find potential trade destinations. The Lakers, of course, were very willing to play ball. But all they could offer is Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick that won't convey for another five years. Brooklyn was understandably not interested.
That has changed. There is a very reasonable argument to be made that ditching Kyrie, even at the cost of picking up Westbrook for a year, is the top priority after getting as much for Durant as possible. Kyrie was never going to bail on $30 million to sign with Los Angeles, but now he could have the best of both worlds.
And, really, the Lakers are likely to be the only team that wants him. Adrian Wojnarowski said as much last week amidst the height of the Kyrie drama. All the other teams in the NBA either don't want him or would have to bend over backwards to make the money work. But the Lakers? The Lakers are on a ticking clock and the only way to improve their team is to trade for Kyrie. They aren't going to get Durant and nobody else has the desperation to move off a star player like the Nets now have.
Kyrie to the Lakers has never looked more likely.