Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s trade demands were about seeking control, but also came at a cost to the NBA

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s trade demands were about seeking control, but also came at a cost to the NBA

SALT LAKE CITY — The world is a circus around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, even during the media availability of the NBA All-Star Game, where people should be used to having access to the greatest basketball players in the world.

Durant was asked if he was in a zombie apocalypse, which of his teammates would he bring with him. He shook his head and said without explanation, “Deandre Ayton. A meaningless answer for a meaningless question. Irving’s experience was no different. He said he wished he’d been asked more questions that made him think more deeply about the game, and within minutes he was talking about how he’d be “one of those reviewers. hotels” if he wasn’t in the NBA. All of this is broadcast for anyone interested.

You can’t blame them for acting in their own best interests in the face of constant chaos. Is it good for the game? They also have thoughts about it and their feelings about their business requests seem sincere.

“I don’t think it’s bad for the league,” Durant said of seeking a trade to the Phoenix Suns after Irving left. “It brings more attention to the league, more people are more excited. The tweets I get, the hits we got from me being traded, Kyrie being traded, it just brings more attention to the league, and really what makes you money is when you get more attention. So I think it’s great for the league, to be honest.

Durant strips away the facade of loyalty and lays bare the company, or at least his side. If you thought a four-year, $200 million deal meant your favorite player committed to playing for your favorite team, you were wrong. The promise was written in pencil, like any investment shared with the faithful of the city.

Durant seems to embrace the idea of ​​being a mercenary, as long as he encourages commitment to the NBA, and he rationalizes this by saying to himself, “Teams have been trading players and making acquisitions for a long time. Now, when a le player can kind of dictate where they want to go and go in free agency or demand a trade, that’s part of the game now, so I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” There’s a lot of truth in that.

It’s also not often that teams trade stars against their will. Isaiah Thomas is the one players appoint to equate their trade requests with a team’s willingness to reject them. DeMar DeRozan is another. Both were devastated when news broke that they had been dealt – for two top players who demanded trades.

“Why doesn’t anyone have the ability to request trades? That’s my question,” Irving said Saturday, two weeks after the Brooklyn Nets granted his trade request and six years after his previous request sent Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “When did it get terrible to make good business decisions for yourself, your happiness and your peace of mind? All the employers you don’t get along with, so if you’re lucky enough to go somewhere else and you’re doing it legally, I don’t think there’s a problem with that.”

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving speaks during a press conference as part of the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving speaks during a press conference as part of the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Teams are designed to operate in the best interest of the fans, even when that doesn’t always seem like it. They want to get better (or worse with the intention of getting better in the long run). Superstars don’t always operate within the same parameters, and trade requests make it clear when they deviate completely. Where Irving seems to separate from Durant is the notion that the public interest is part of the job description.

“Speculation and storytelling is what makes this entertainment seem a bit more important or a priority than it actually is. Like, it’s my life. It’s not just a dream that everything the world can chat,” Irving added. “I take it very seriously, and most of the work I do goes unseen, so I don’t know if it’ll ever really be appreciated, but overall when you work as hard as I do or n anyone Otherwise, in a specific profession, I think you should have the freedom and freedom to go where you’re wanted, where you’re celebrated, and where you feel comfortable, so I wouldn’t say that ‘none of my situations were bad.”

Again, there is some truth in this. You want players to feel wanted, celebrated, and comfortable. The NBA is no ordinary job either. Stars receive nine-figure salaries, largely on the understanding that fans are invested in their success, often with a particular team. If you pay to watch “Creed III” in theaters, you’re going to see Michael B. Jordan, not the one who surprisingly replaces him once he requests the project.

And if your mortgage lender chooses to leave one branch for another across the country, it’s not like the other branch is forcing one of their employees to move in the other direction to replace them. Irving’s freedom didn’t explain whether Dorian Finney-Smith felt wanted, celebrated, or at home in Brooklyn.

Referring to the many ripple effects that result from public trade demands, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at his annual All-Star Game press conference, “I think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s corrosive to the system. The fans definitely don’t. Even a lot of players don’t like it either, because at the end of the day, they can go to a particular team thinking that this player will always be there.

Silver seemed to make a distinction between public trade requests and those made behind closed doors, but the end result is often the same, especially when requests made in private are leaked to the media. So it was remarkable that Silver seemed to be getting closer to Durant and Irving on this issue.

“You want to strike the right balance,” Silver said ahead of All-Star contests on Saturday. “Obviously you want players to honor their contracts, and at the same time a certain amount of player movement is good. So strongly against anything that’s been said publicly. I agree that a certain amount player movement is good, but I think it has to be done in partnership and respecting the agreements that players and teams make.”

It’s still unclear why Irving wanted to leave the Nets beyond their differences on his next contract. Even Durant said earlier in the week, “I didn’t know what was going on with Kyrie and his situation with the organization.” Irving made veiled references to disagreements with the Brooklyn front office that superseded his finances, but although he said on Saturday, “Now I can talk about it honestly,” he offered few details:

“We had a conversation between me, (General Manager) Sean (Marks), (Team Owner) Joe (Tsai), upper management and the front office, and I was just telling them I would like to have more shared responsibilities. if we’re going to build a future here. They gave me all the right answers – ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ does he take? He wants to be in the front office,” and that’s not the angle I’m from. I just wanted to bring in some great guys.

“I know cohesion. I know how to win games, but in this phase of my career it’s about leading and also following with the good guys around me, so in Brooklyn I wish things had worked out. and be there long term, but Dallas, they came to call me (Mavericks owner) Mark (Cuban) called my phone, (GM) Nico (Harrison) called my phone, and I’m grateful to them , because I know they wanted me for my work ethic, my leadership abilities and also my consistency in what I bring to the team, and I would just like to show it every day.

“So judge me on these actions, rather than what I talk to management about and what it looks like from the outside. Most of the things you hear about aren’t true behind the scenes, or it’s 100% true, and it’s not being reported, so I think I have to find a balance just knowing that some things are going to be discussed and some things aren’t, but how I manage the team and how I manage myself and the others is what I can control.”

I don’t quite know what to make of all this. What stands out is the sense that amid all the chaos around him, Irving naturally seeks more than he can control. His pursuit also comes at the expense of those with less influence than him, be they fans or colleagues. Teams can be unfair, but the reverse is not better. Both reveal hard truths about the NBA, the fandom, and the circus it created.

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