Kevin Durant

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, LeVert, Luwawu-Cabarrot

Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been “brutally honest” with their input into the team’s coaching situation, but neither will be in Orlando to watch interim coach Jacque Vaughn in action, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. General manager Sean Marks discussed their input during a Friday interview with WFAN.

“It would not be smart of us if we were not to involve some of these key players in this decision,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie, we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they need. They’ve been brutally honest so far. I’m not going to be asking Kevin to come down to Orlando to evaluate anybody. When you get to the level of those elite players, they have ultimate goals in mind. They want to be held accountable. Kevin and Kyrie have told me they want to win a championship in Brooklyn.”

Marks noted that Irving is “doing well” in his recovery from shoulder surgery in March, but implied that the team never gave serious consideration to having Irving or Durant play in Orlando, citing the “risk-reward” factor and how it could affect the franchise in the long run.

There’s more Nets news this morning:

  • With a severely short-handed team headed for the NBA’s restart, Brooklyn’s next decision will be how much to use Caris LeVert, Lewis adds in the same piece. LeVert has a history of being injured and is considered the team’s best trade asset if it decides to pursue a third star. “I don’t make those decisions; I feel like that’s outside of me. That’s Sean and ownership. That’s not really my job to think of those things,” LeVert said.
  • The Nets’ roster woes will provide an opportunity for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to prove he deserves a larger role, Lewis states in a separate story. After being waived in a preseason, then working his way onto the roster through a two-way contract and a pair of 10-day deals, Luwawu-Cabarrot should see plenty of playing time in Orlando. “It’s huge for us, huge for me,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to miss them. But as we say this year and as it’s always been, it’s next man up. You have to stay ready and be ready to play … I’m sure they’ll support us and we’ll try and do the best job we can.”
  • Matt Brooks and Chris Milholen of NetsDaily discuss potential replacements for DeAndre Jordan, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Nets Notes: Vaughn, Durant, Irving

Given how depleted Brooklyn’s roster is as a result of injuries and opt-outs, head coach Jacque Vaughn will face a tall task in Orlando this summer as he looks to help the Nets secure a playoff spot and make some noise in the postseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Vaughn, who took over for former head coach Kenny Atkinson less than a week before the NBA went on hiatus in March, won his first two games, but will be without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, Nicolas Claxton, and possibly Spencer Dinwiddie when play resumes.

Given the unusual circumstances, the Nets’ evaluation of Vaughn this summer will be about more than just his record in Orlando, general manager Sean Marks said on Wednesday, as Lewis writes in a separate story.

“It’s completely unfair to say it’s going to be about wins and losses at this point. Jacque has been a prominent part of this organization the last four years,” Marks said. “We know what Jacque is about and the type of person he is and the character and the leader that he is. … We’ll just see what happens down the line.”

Although the Nets are considered a good bet to conduct a full-fledged coaching search at season’s end, reports have indicated that Vaughn has a legitimate chance to claim the permanent job. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated that point during his Woj Pod podcast this week, suggesting that he’d take Vaughn against the field if he were predicting Brooklyn’s 2020/21 head coach (hat tip to RealGM).

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Despite their gutted roster, the Nets never entertained the possibility of skipping the NBA restart altogether, Marks said on Wednesday, per Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. “Look, we have a job to do,” the GM told reporters. “Again, we have to bring a team to Orlando. We will bring a team to Orlando. We will go down there and we will compete. That’s our jobs here.”
  • Although Kevin Durant won’t be active – or in attendance – when the Nets resume play later this month, the former MVP will continue to have a voice in the team’s basketball decisions leading up to the 2020/21 season, according to Marks. “He continues to be a very loud voice in terms of where we’re going in the future and what we’re doing and I involve him like the other players and staff and how we’ll continue to build this team and how we move forward,” Marks told reporters, including Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The GM added that he’s been in touch with Durant regularly since the hiatus began in March.
  • Marks also confirmed on Wednesday that Kyrie Irving won’t be part of the Nets’ traveling party to Orlando this summer, writes Begley.

Nets Notes: Durant, Practice Facility, Chandler

Nets star forward Kevin Durant, who won’t participate in the NBA’s restart as he continues to rehab his Achilles injury, won’t accompany the team to the Walt Disney World campus, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

The news doesn’t come as a real surprise. Teams’ traveling parties are limited to 35 people and Durant has said he’s not sure he’d want to participate in the Disney restart even if he were fully healthy. Since he now won’t make his Brooklyn debut until December, there’s no urgency for KD to ramp up his 5-on-5 work in July and August, so it makes more sense for him to continue his rehab program away from the team for now.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Brooklyn’s practice facility reopened on Tuesday after being closed for several days following DeAndre Jordan‘s and Spencer Dinwiddie‘s positive coronavirus tests, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Brooklyn is one of a handful of NBA clubs that has closed its facility amid COVID-19 cases, as we detailed earlier today.
  • Appearing on The Court Vision podcast with Jameer Nelson and Ben Stinar, Nets forward Wilson Chandler further explained why he has decided to opt out of the NBA’s return. “For me, personally, I think like the unknown of this whole COVID thing and just having a grandmother who’s 87 – she just turned 87 – and battling all types of illnesses and having young kids, I think it’s more important for me to be at home with my family and taking care of my family,” Chandler said, as Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype relays.
  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic explores how the Nets will fill the hole in their rotation created by Jordan’s opt-out, and briefly touches on Jacque Vaughn‘s candidacy for the team’s permanent head coaching job.

Durant Not Sure He’d Play This Summer Even If Healthy

Kevin Durant won’t be making his Nets debut this summer. He and the team have decided to continue planning for Durant to return from his Achilles injury to start the 2020/21 season, with the star forward confirming earlier this month that his season is over.

As such, there’s no need for Durant – or teammate Kyrie Irving, who is also sidelined with an injury – to make a decision on whether or not to participate in the NBA’s restart plan. However, during an appearance on the Dawg Talk podcast this week, Durant admitted he’s not sure he’d want to play even if he were healthy.

“I feel, me right now, I probably wouldn’t have played because the unknown going into that situation looks crazy right now, seeing so many new (COVID-19) cases,” Durant said, per Alex Smith of SNY.tv. “It’s just so unpredictable. It’s easy for me to say right now because I’m injured but I probably wouldn’t have went down there.”

Of the four players who have voluntarily opted out so far, three – Davis Bertans, Trevor Ariza, and Willie Cauley-Stein – are on teams that are either outside of the playoff picture or hold a lower seed. That’s the case for the Nets as well — they have a half-game lead on Orlando for the No. 7 spot in the East. No Brooklyn players have opted out yet, but Durant said he’d support his teammates no matter what they decide.

“If the guys feel safe enough to go play, that’s cool. I’m with them,” said Durant. “If they don’t feel like they should go down there and play or don’t feel safe, I’m with them too. I’m all about what the group wants. If it’s good for the betterment of the whole group then I’m cool with it.

“I probably would have chilled. Obviously, I would have talked to my teammates and consulted with my guys and actually really went over it for the last month and a half, but me, my gut would have told me, ‘Nah, I wouldn’t want to go down there, especially after three months off.'”

Any player who voluntarily opts out of participating this summer will forfeit between approximately 9-15% of his salary for the 2019/20 season. His team will also be eligible to sign a substitute player to replace him, even without an open roster spot.

However, players who are sidelined with injuries can’t be replaced by a substitute player, which will limit the Nets’ roster flexibility — in addition to Durant and Irving, Nicolas Claxton will also be on the shelf with an injury this summer, leaving the team with just 12 healthy players on its 15-man roster. Two-way players Chris Chiozza and Jeremiah Martin should be available to help provide depth.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Nets, Tatum, Durant, Knicks

In a recent group chat, Kyrie Irving urged his Nets teammates to skip the restarted season this summer, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, who says the star guard also put forth the idea of players starting their own league.

Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears from sources that Irving never said the Nets should start their own league in response to the bubble plan. However, the wording of that denial leaves some room for interpretation — it doesn’t mean Irving never floated the concept, or that it wasn’t part of a separate conversation from the one about participating in the bubble.

Either way, it’s an eyebrow-raising idea. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the world’s best players could launch and run a successful league, but it would be a long, challenging process to get enough players on board and to attempt to build the sort of infrastructure the NBA already has in place. For now, it’s not really a realistic possibility.

For what it’s worth, Rooks adds that Irving left the group chat following the publication of Bondy’s report.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic division:

  • Within that same Daily News article, Bondy cites a source who says Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has expressed some reluctance about playing this summer, since he’s eligible for a maximum-salary extension this offseason and feels as if there will be an elevated risk of injury when play resumes. While Bondy’s report may be accurate, I’d be shocked if Tatum didn’t ultimately suit up — even a major injury likely wouldn’t prevent the C’s from offering him a lucrative long-term deal.
  • Even at full strength, the Nets wouldn’t be a real threat to win the title this season, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, who lauds Kevin Durant‘s willingness to remain patient with his Achilles recovery rather than pushing to return to action in Orlando.
  • As first reported by Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link), the Knicks are hiring Pelicans scout Alex Kline to a front office role. Kline will take on a larger role in New York, working under new assistant GM Walt Perrin, league sources tell Vorkunov.

More Details Emerge From Friday’s Conference Call

We relayed details last night about a conference call regarding player objections to the plan to restart the NBA season in Orlando. More information on that call, which involved in excess of 80 players, has been released by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania confirms that Kyrie Irving was the leader of the effort to make players reconsider their support of finishing the season. He spoke first and offered a direct message to his peers, telling them, “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bull–. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”

Avery Bradley, who was outspoken throughout the conversation, was the first player to follow Irving’s comments. He encouraged the players to take a stand and to use the opportunity to “play chess, not checkers.” Other prominent names on the call included union president Chris PaulKevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell.

Players have been involved in conversations for the past two weeks, sources tell Charania, expressing concerns about the games in Orlando and the restrictive conditions that are rumored to be part of the bubble environment. The opposition began among “rank-and-file” players, with Irving and Durant providing prominent voices.

Sources offered Charania a few more tidbits from the conference call:

  • Anthony emphasized the need for player unity and the importance of conveying a single message. He also urged all 80 players on the call to donate $25K to a cause of their choice.
  • CJ McCollum told players they have to be prepared for financial setbacks if they choose not to play and the possibility that owners will nullify the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • Howard warned that resuming the season will distract from the social justice issues the country is focused on. He encouraged players to use the moment as a catalyst for change.
  • Mitchell talked about players “being behind the 8-ball” by being forced into a competitive environment after being idle for so long. “We’re taking a big injury risk,” he told his fellow players.
  • NBPA leadership doesn’t expect fans to be allowed into games at any point during the 2020/21 season, which would result in another huge revenue loss for the league.

Players’ Conference Call Focuses On Restart Concerns

More than 80 players participated in a conference call on Friday night to address concerns over the NBA’s restart plan, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Nets guard Kyrie Irving was the leading voice on the call, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. While the NBA has solidified key restart dates, a plan approved by player reps last week, Irving has emerged as the most prominent player with major reservations about resuming the season.

Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Donovan Mitchell were among the participants on the call, and numerous players voiced their concerns about finishing the season amid nationwide unrest regarding social injustice and racism, Charania adds.

During the call, one unnamed player texted Wojnarowski regarding some of the issues raised during the call (Twitter link), including playing in the Orlando bubble: “(Kyrie)’s trying to give players a platform to be able to have a discussion — on the bubble, racial equality and unity. … It’s a good call.”

Irving underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in March. His presence in Orlando would only be as an interested observer and to support his Nets teammates.

Irving was an active participant in last week’s call when the reps agreed to the restart plan and only chimed in with mundane questions. Thus, his actions to organize a broader conference call that could change or even halt the restart plan has surprised several of his NBPA colleagues, according to Wojnarowski.

Irving’s stance has pitted him against many of the league’s superstars, most of whom have strongly supported the resumption of the season. Irving seems to be relishing the clash, Wojnarowski adds.

Kevin Durant Confirms “My Season Is Over”

Confirming a Friday report, star forward Kevin Durant told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated in a wide-ranging interview that he won’t play for the Nets when the 2019/20 season resumes this summer.

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all,” Durant said. “We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

Durant tore his Achilles tendon nearly a year ago during the 2019 NBA Finals and had originally been ruled out for the entire 2019/20 season. When the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the end of the season being postponed, there was some speculation that KD might not have to wait until 2020/21 to make his Nets debut after all. However, reports in recent weeks continually indicated that was unlikely to be the case.

Prior to the suspension of the season in March, Durant had progressed to scrimmaging with teammates, but his rehab process slowed down when practice facilities became unavailable and group activities were no longer permitted. The former MVP told Spears that his rehab is still going well and that he’s “feeling like a normal player again,” but said putting off his return until next season is the right call.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.”

As for teammate Kyrie Irving, the expectation for now is that he also won’t be healthy enough to return for the Nets this summer in Orlando. Irving is recovering from undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this year.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Irving suggested on Friday’s NBPA conference call that he may end up joining the Nets this summer as an inactive player supporting his teammates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kevin Durant Reportedly Won’t Play This Summer

Despite ongoing speculation about the possibility of Kevin Durant making his Nets debut this summer when the 2019/20 NBA season resumes, multiple sources tell Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily that Durant won’t return for the rest of the season.

Puccio’s report is the most definitive update we’ve gotten yet on Durant, but it aligns with everything we’ve heard over the last few months about the star forward’s recovery from an Achilles tear suffered last June.

Durant’s manager and business partner Rich Kleiman has repeatedly stated that it’s unrealistic to expect KD to play this summer; after initially leaving the door open to the possibility of Durant’s return, Nets general manager Sean Marks seemed to close that door last month; and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski stated in a podcast nearly a month ago that Brooklyn wouldn’t be playing the two-time Finals MVP this summer.

This week alone, several more updates have indicated that Durant still isn’t expected to suit up for the Nets until the 2020/21 campaign begins. As Greg Logan of Newsday notes, teammate Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot recently told a French outlet that he didn’t think KD would be back this summer.

Appearing this morning on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), Brian Windhorst said the Nets’ official stance is that Durant won’t play this summer, adding that the compressed nature of the tentative schedule make it an even unlikelier proposition. And following up on Puccio’s report, Chris Mannix of SI.com tweeted that the idea of Durant returning this summer was “never a serious idea.”

Getting Durant and Kyrie Irving back for July 31 would have made the Nets an intriguing challenger in the Eastern Conference playoffs, even though they won’t be higher than a No. 7 seed. However, with Durant’s return apparently off the table and Irving’s status still up in the air, according to Puccio, the idea of Brooklyn making a deep postseason run looks like a long shot.

It makes sense that the Nets would prefer to play it safe with Durant, given the unusual nature of the summer schedule and the fact that he’ll likely be very rusty upon returning. The optics of KD’s Finals return and subsequent re-injury for the Warriors a year ago may also be in the back of the Nets’ minds. And even with Durant on the court, Brooklyn probably isn’t a serious title contender this season, so there’s little upside in risking another setback.

As Durant continues to rehab and work toward his return to the court, he’s also been busy off the court. Mark J. Burns of SportsBusiness Daily reports that the 31-year-old has become a stakeholder in the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer franchise. Durant’s share is believed to be worth between between one and five percent, according to Burns.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Knicks, Raptors, Sixers

Appearing on Wednesday on ESPN’s First Take (video link), Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said he can’t really address the possibility of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving potentially returning from injuries this summer, since that decision will ultimately be made by others, including team doctors. However, he acknowledged that Brooklyn’s outlook for the 2020 postseason would change significantly with those two stars in the lineup.

“If they are able to return and that’s the decision they make, our aspirations turn from playoffs to championship,” Dinwiddie said, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “If they’re not able to return, which they’ve pretty much said that’s kind of the stance that they’re taking, we still want to be a team that grinds to get to the playoffs and makes a run in the playoffs.”

Unlike Irving, whose season was cut short by a shoulder issue, Durant has yet to make his debut with the Nets. While a torn Achilles tendon is a potentially devastating injury for NBA players, Dinwiddie is confident that KD will still look like a star when he returns to the court.

“I look at it like this: At 80 percent, he’s Dirk Nowitzki,” Dinwiddie said of Durant, according to Bondy. “At 100 percent, he’s the best scorer of all time, and anywhere in between, he’s still, what, a top-three small forward in the league.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Knicks don’t plan to formally launch their head coaching search until they find out whether or not their season is over, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. We heard on Wednesday that Tom Thibodeau and Kenny Atkinson are expected to be among the club’s candidates in that search.
  • Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who have played key minutes in the Raptors‘ frontcourt this season, will both be free agents at season’s end. Bearing that in mind, Eric Koreen of The Athletic examines each player’s appeal, arguing that it wouldn’t be an easy decision if the team can only retain one. Hollis-Jefferson is the more versatile player, but Boucher is a better rim protector and will be a restricted free agent.
  • Looking at the Sixers‘ future with Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, John Hollinger suggests the team has painted itself into a bit of a corner with its big-money commitments to some secondary players and will need to get creative to upgrade its roster going forward.