Basketball: Nash plays down Durant trade request as Nets eye reboot

Kevin Durant said he became concerned that the Nets would not be capable of challenging for championships. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash played down Kevin Durant's trade request on Monday, insisting the superstar was "on the same page" as the team prepares for the new season.

Durant shocked basketball in June after requesting a trade, less than a year after he signed a four-year US$198 million (S$284.1 million) contract extension to remain in Brooklyn.

Durant is reported to have given Nets owner Joe Tsai an ultimatum, to either grant his request for a trade or fire Nash and Nets manager Sean Marks.

The standoff appeared to have been resolved last month when the Nets said in a statement that Durant would remain with the team following clear-the-air talks.

Speaking at the Nets' media day on Monday, Nash said Durant's trade request was part-and-parcel of life in the NBA.

"Families go through things like this," Nash told reporters. "You go through adversity, you go through disagreements.

"This is not new to the NBA. It has happened dozens of times; I'm sure every organisation has faced that. So, you know, it's a part of the process. It's a part of working in this business. It's super competitive.

"We're all prideful. We all have expectations, and when we get dinged up like we did last year, you know, everyone's disappointed. We cleared the air and we spoke and we got on the same page."

Brooklyn had hoped to challenge for an NBA Championship last season, building their roster around the talents of Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

However the Nets "Big Three" failed to deliver, and Harden was traded away to the Philadelphia 76ers in February.

The Nets were later swept in the first round of the play-offs by the Boston Celtics.

Durant said on Monday he had sought a move after becoming concerned that the team would not be capable of challenging for championships.

"As last season went on, you see what happened with our season, guys in and out of the line-up, injuries, just a lot of uncertainty, which built some doubt in my mind about the next four years in my career," Durant said.

"I'm getting older and I want to be in a place that's stable and trying to build a championship culture. So I had some doubts about that. I voiced them to (Nets owner) Joe (Tsai), and we moved forward from there."

Durant said he had been encouraged by Marks' roster moves during the close season.

"I liked what we did, what Sean put together this summer with the team," Durant said, adding that talks with team ownership and management had put his mind at rest.

"We came to a mutual agreement that we should keep moving forward," he said.

Meanwhile, his teammate Irving said remaining unvaccinated was a US$100 million decision.

The seven-time All-Star guard said on Monday that his choice to forgo Covid-19 vaccinations forced him to decline a hefty contract extension with the Nets.

"I gave up four years, US$100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision," Irving said on Monday as the Nets met the media at the start of training camp.

"(Get this) contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there's a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you're going to be in this league, whether you're going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision."

Irving couldn't play home games for the Nets last season until New York City's vaccinate mandate was lifted in March. There were also some road games for which he was unavailable due to local vaccine requirements.

He will play for Brooklyn in the 2022-23 season on a US$36.5 million player option before potentially becoming a free agent next summer.

Irving admitted he expected to sign a long-term contract with the Nets in the summer of 2021.

"We were supposed to have all that figured out before training camp last year," he said. "And it just didn't happen because of the status of me being vaccinated, unvaccinated.

"So, I understood their point and I had to live with it. It was a tough pill to swallow, honestly.

"I felt like I was forced with an ultimatum of whether or not I had a contract or not, whether or not I can be on the team (based on) whether or not I was vaccinated... I was definitely put in that position where I had to make that decision."

Marks disputed Irving's characterisation of the talks.

"There's no ultimatum being given here," Marks said.

"Again, it goes back to you want people who are reliable, people who are here, and accountable. All of us - staff, players, coaches, you name it.

"It's not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine. That's a completely personal choice.

"Two summers ago, when we were talking about contract negotiations, that was pre-citywide mandates that went in. Once the vaccine mandates came in, you knew how that'd affect playing home games. That's when contract talks stalled.

"It didn't get to, 'Here's the deal, now take it back.' That never happened." AFP, REUTERS

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