Royce O'Neale

Kevin Durant Talks Offseason Trade Request, Nets, Legacy, More

The Nets have had an up-and-down first month of the 2022/23 season and are in the midst of another downturn right now, having given up 153 points to the Kings in a blowout loss on Tuesday.

Still, Kevin Durant tells Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that he likes the energy new head coach Jacque Vaughn has brought to the team. According to Durant, the Nets have been “preparing ourselves well” for games, “playing as hard as we can,” and are starting to build real chemistry.

In Durant’s view, the way the Nets are readying themselves for games under Vaughn is how the team should have been approaching its preparation last season. That was the primary reason the star forward requested a trade in the summer, he told Haynes.

“It wasn’t difficult at all to request a trade because it was about ball,” Durant said. “I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t like how we are preparing. I don’t like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more. I want to work on more s–t. Hold me accountable. Get on my ass in film if that’s going to help you get on everybody else’s head. I want to do more closeouts. I want to work on more shell drills at practice.’

“This was the type of s–t I was coming at them with. It wasn’t like, ‘Yo, y’all need to make sure everybody around me can make my life easier.’ Hell nah, I want to make everybody else’s life easier. Ask Steve Nash, you can go call him right now. I would say, ‘Yo, I need more closeout drills. We need to practice more.’ That’s what I was on.

“I wasn’t feeling that, and nobody was on that same vibe with me. Jacque Vaughn is. I had some complaints in the summer, and my complaints were not about just me; it was about how we are moving as a unit. I want us to be respected out here in the basketball world. I don’t want players to look at us and say, ‘Oh man, these (expletive) are full of s–t. That’s not the type of team I want to be on.’ So when we’re all playing like s–t, you know the one person they’re going to look at. That’s why I requested a trade.”

Durant opened up to both Haynes and Marc J. Spears of Andscape on Tuesday about a number of topics beyond his offseason trade request. Both interviews are worth checking out in full, but here are some of the highlights from the former MVP:

On the Nets’ lineup with Kyrie Irving unavailable and Ben Simmons struggling to regain his old form:

“Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, (Nic) Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group? You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”

On the perception that he’s not a true leader:

“I’m not a leader? What the f–k does that mean? A lot of people say I’m not a leader because I didn’t tell Kyrie to get vaccinated. Come on. Or I didn’t condemn Kyrie for leaving the team, going out and living his life. I’m not about to tell a grown-ass man what he can and can’t do with his own life and dissect his views or how he thinks about s–t.

“… I don’t need to show or tell everybody what I’m doing with my teammates so y’all can pump me up and say, ‘Yeah, KD, you’re the boss, you’re the leader.’ These other (expletives) need that. I don’t. I don’t come to you and say, ‘Haynes, write this story about me.’ I don’t do that to nobody. But I come here and respect y’all. I talk to y’all like a real one, even after a blowout (loss).”

On whether he’s happy in Brooklyn:

I’m incredible. Loving life right now. I don’t think the world understands that. Maybe I need to get miked up more. Maybe I need to have more fluff pieces written about me. Smile more in pictures.

“What’s not to love about this life? I’m a great player. I get up to go hoop every day, work on my game. I make a s–t ton of money. I buy a lot of cool s–t. I don’t understand why there’s even a question on whether I’m happy or not. I just look at the big picture of things. Obviously, basketball, I want to do well, win every game and I want s–t to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean my whole life is f—ed up.”

On his legacy as a player:

“All that extra s–t like, ‘You got to win before you retire and make sure your legacy is straight,’ that’s bulls–t to me. My legacy is predicated on what Cam Thomas is learning from me and what he’ll take away to help him by the time he’s in his 10th year. That’s my legacy. What I did with Andre Roberson, the confidence I helped him build when he was in the league. That’s my legacy. Being able to play with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Kyrie and still be me. Yeah, that’s my legacy. That’s who I am. That’s what I bring to the game.

“I can play with anybody, anywhere, at any time, and you know I’m going bring it every day. That should be my legacy.”

New York Notes: O’Neale, Nets, Bower, Knicks, Grimes

New Nets forward Royce O’Neale has a chance to enter the starting lineup, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who thinks the decision for the final spot on Brooklyn’s starting five will come down to O’Neale vs. Joe Harris.

Since Harris is coming off a pair of ankle surgeries and has missed a little time this preseason with a sore foot, there could be an opportunity for O’Neale to claim that spot, Lewis writes. Harris is traveling with the Nets for Wednesday’s preseason contest against Milwaukee, but won’t play in that game, tweets Lewis.

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Nic Claxton are the Nets’ other projected starters.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York-based teams:

  • Veteran NBA executive Jeff Bower, a former general manager in New Orleans and Detroit, has been hired by the Nets in a scouting role, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Bower most recently worked in Phoenix’s front office, but parted ways with the team in 2021.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic liked the Knicks‘ decision not to go all-in for Donovan Mitchell this offseason, even if it means the team will likely spend another season in “NBA purgatory.” After breaking down New York’s offseason moves, Hollinger projects the club to go 39-43 and finish 10th in the Eastern Conference.
  • Quentin Grimes won’t be the Knicks‘ starting shooting guard to open the season, but he has earned Tom Thibodeau‘s trust and respect, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “No one’s close to putting the amount of work that he puts in,” the head coach said of Grimes, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. Thibodeau’s fondness for Grimes is presumably one reason why the team has been reluctant to discuss the second-year wing in trade talks. “My name was in the trade rumors last year at the trade deadline, they called me and were like, ‘Thibs love you. …We love your work ethic,'” Grimes said, per Bondy.

Scotto’s Latest: Jazz, Raptors, Nets, DiVincenzo

Before they reached an agreement to send Rudy Gobert to Minnesota on Friday, the Jazz asked the Raptors about the possibility of acquiring forward OG Anunoby and swingman Gary Trent Jr., league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Toronto was linked to Gobert repeatedly during the first half of the offseason. Still, as great as the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is, it was never clear how badly the Raptors wanted to break up their core to acquire a big man who didn’t fit the versatile, switchable, and positionless brand of basketball the team has adopted. Whether the Raptors balked at Utah’s asking price or the Jazz simply preferred Minnesota’s offer, Gobert is off the table for Toronto.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • The Celtics, Bucks, Nets, and Bulls are among the teams that expressed interest in Chris Boucher before he agreed to re-sign with the Raptors, while forward Thaddeus Young – who is also returning to Toronto – drew interest from the Celtics and Pacers, according to Scotto.
  • The Nets made it a priority this offseason to land a wing defender capable of guarding multiple positions, which was why they agreed to trade for Royce O’Neale even as news of Kevin Durant‘s trade request was breaking. As Scotto explains, the Nets and Jazz previously explored a deal involving O’Neale and Joe Harris prior to the in-season trade deadline.
  • In addition to receiving interest from teams willing to give him the full taxpayer mid-level exception, Donte DiVincenzo also received an offer from a team with cap space that would’ve exceeded the two-year, $9.3MM contract he’s signing with the Warriors, says Scotto. The second-year player option Golden State gave him and DiVincenzo’s belief that the Warriors give him the best opportunity to play for a contender were factors in his decision to accept less money, Scotto adds.

Nets Acquire Royce O’Neale From Jazz

5:34pm: The trade is official, according to press releases from both teams.

2:05pm: The Jazz are trading starting forward Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a first-round pick, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Brooklyn is using a $11.3MM trade exception it created in the James Harden trade with Philadelphia to take on O’Neale’s salary, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. The Jazz will create a trade exeption worth O’Neale’s outgoing salary.

The pick headed to Utah is a 2023 first-rounder, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Brooklyn is sending the lesser of its own, Houston’s, or Philadelphia’s first-round pick, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

The Sixers sent their first rounder for next season to the Nets in the same Harden deal. Houston has the right to swap its pick with Brooklyn’s next season, courtesy of the four-way swap in 2021 that landed Harden in Brooklyn.

O’Neale has a $9.2MM salary next season and a $9.5MM salary for 2023/24. However, the last year is guaranteed is only guaranteed for $2.5MM.

O’Neale, noted for his defensive prowess, has been a fixture in Utah’s lineup for the last three seasons. He averaged 7.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 2.5 APG in 31.2 MPG this past season while appearing in 77 regular season games.

The acquisition of O’Neale will likely diminish the possibility of the Nets re-signing free agent swingman Bruce Brown. On the flip side, Utah’s decision to trade one of its starters signals that other moves are on the way. The first-rounder will give it an asset to dangle for another trade.

Eastern Rumors: Gallinari, Celtics, Nets, O’Neale, Wizards, Turner

The Hawks and Danilo Gallinari have agreed to push back the forward’s salary guarantee date to July 8, reports Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Gallinari’s $21.45MM salary for 2022/23, which is currently only partially guaranteed for $5MM, was originally set to become fully guaranteed if he remained under contract through Wednesday.

However, with word breaking that he would be sent to San Antonio in a trade for Dejounte Murray, there was an expectation that Gallinari’s guarantee deadline would be moved, giving the two teams some time to complete the trade and assuring him of some extra money — it appears he’s in line to receive about an extra $6.57MM in order to ensure his guarantee is large enough to legally match Murray’s salary.

While Fischer suggests the new guarantee date opens the door for the Hawks to further expand the Murray trade before it becomes official, it will also simply ensure the Spurs and Hawks have a chance to complete the trade once the transaction moratorium ends on July 6 and that San Antonio can subsequently waive Gallinari before the rest of his salary becomes guaranteed. Assuming he’s released next week, Gallinari will have an opportunity to find a new landing spot without having to wait until later in the offseason to reach the open market.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Within their look at possible targets for the Celtics‘ $17MM+ trade exception, Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic say that Boston has been exploring possible deals for Hawks wing Kevin Huerter “for some time now.” John Hollinger of The Athletic thinks a trade sending Huerter to Boston would make sense for both teams if the Celtics can handle the tax hit.
  • The Nets are among the teams that have interest in trading for Jazz forward Royce O’Neale, sources tell Ian Begley of A report last week indicated that O’Neale was generating serious trade interest.
  • The Wizards and free agent point guard Delon Wright have mutual interest, according to Begley. Washington addressed its point guard hole by agreeing to acquire Monte Morris, but could still use another reliable option at the position, and Wright should be attainable using the mid-level exception.
  • Whether he begins the 2022/23 season with the Pacers or a new team, center Myles Turner should be ready to play from day one. According to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, Turner is now fully healthy, having experienced no setbacks in his recovery from a stress reaction in his left foot.

Fischer’s Latest: Turner, Sixers, Thybulle, Jazz, Micic

As the Pacers continue to weigh the possibility of trading center Myles Turner, the Timberwolves, Raptors, and Hornets are among the teams believed to be interested, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

According to Fischer, the Knicks have showed interest in Turner in recent years too, but the expectation is that they’d only be a serious suitor for the big man if Mitchell Robinson leaves in free agency.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Sixers have called “a healthy portion” of the teams around the NBA in an effort to gauge their interest in Tobias Harris, Danny Green, and Matisse Thybulle, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer suggests Philadelphia has been trying to find teams that would give up a first-round pick for Thybulle as part of a three-team trade that would send an impact veteran rotation to the 76ers.
  • The Jazz are seeking a first-round pick in exchange for any of their rotation players besides Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, according to Fischer, who adds that Royce O’Neale is generating significant trade interest around the NBA.
  • Nikola Jokic is thought to be a “driving factor” in the Nuggets‘ interest in Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic, a draft-and-stash EuroLeague star whose NBA rights are held by the Thunder. The Spurs, Bucks, and Bulls have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Micic, Fischer reports.

Fischer’s Latest: Jazz, Conley, Snyder, Popovich, Graham

Speculation about the potential breakup of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert appears to be fueled more by people outside of the Jazz organization than those within it, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says sources from the team and around the NBA believe that CAA has been responsible for many of the whispers involving Mitchell’s future.

According to Fischer, team owner Ryan Smith is willing to spend big on a contender, and Utah has no plans to rebuild. Smith also likes the idea of having multiple players in the 2023 All-Star Game, which the Jazz will host.

Although some rival executives believe a Gobert trade is a possibility and view the Mavericks, Hawks, and Raptors as potential destinations, Fischer says the Jazz are focused on upgrading their defense, so moving a three-time Defensive Player of the Year seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, complementary players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and perhaps even Mike Conley are considered more realistic trade candidates.

Fischer wonders if the Clippers or the Knicks might have interest in Conley, another CAA client. With the Jazz seeking help on the wing, Evan Fournier could theoretically headline a Knicks offer for Conley if they miss out on Jalen Brunson, says Fischer, though he notes that some staffers in New York would prefer to stay in-house and give Immanuel Quickley an expanded role.

As for the Clippers, Fischer is skeptical that a Conley trade offer centered around sharpshooter Luke Kennard would appeal to a Utah team looking to improve its defense and suggests that a more realistic point guard target for L.A. would be John Wall, assuming he and the Rockets work out a buyout. Wall has also been linked to the Heat, but Fischer’s sources believe Miami’s interest predated last year’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • There’s “little expectation” among people close to the situation that Quin Snyder will leave the Jazz before his contract expires in 2023, says Fischer. Snyder also holds an option for the 2023/24 season.
  • Jazz CEO Danny Ainge doesn’t appear inclined to shake up the team’s basketball operations department. According to Fischer, major changes would likely only occur if former head of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey gets a top front office job elsewhere and wants to bring some Utah executives with him.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is traveling and considering his coaching future, plans to visit Belgrade for the EuroLeague Final Four later this month, a source tells Fischer. The general sense is that Popovich seems interested in coaching San Antonio for at least one more season, Fischer adds.
  • The Pelicans are among the teams believed to be considering a possible point guard upgrade this offseason, reports Fischer. Devonte’ Graham saw his role reduced significantly in the playoffs and some people around the league think he could end up on the trade block this offseason, but sources tell Fischer the Pels aren’t motivated to move on from Graham like they were with Eric Bledsoe a year ago.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell, Gobert, Snyder, Offseason

Following the Game 6 loss to Dallas that ended their season on Thursday night, the Jazz face an offseason of potential change. Asked after the game about what the future looks like, center Rudy Gobert and guard Jordan Clarkson both expressed a desire to remain in Utah, but acknowledged that decision could be out of their control, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter links).

While forward Royce O’Neale asserted that “this group wants to stay together,” Gobert expressed uncertainty when he was asked whether the current roster has reached its ceiling (Twitter links via Walden).

“I don’t know,” Gobert said. “We have a lot of talent. This year we faced more adversity. I feel like we could be so much better. … You try to ask yourself why we can’t be consistent.”

As for star guard Donovan Mitchell, he said yes when he was asked after the game whether he wants to stick with the Jazz, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. When he was later asked to address speculation about the possibility of him eventually asking for a trade, Mitchell was less equivocal, but gave no indication that such a request is on his mind in the short term.

“My mindset is to win,” he said. “Right now, I’m not really looking at that. I answered (the first) question, and you could take that. But for me, I just want to win, yo. Like, this hurts. And like I said, I’ll think about it in a week and go from there. But right now, I’m not thinking at all about that.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic expects significant roster changes in Utah this summer, writing that at least one starter will likely be playing elsewhere next season. However, he hears from sources that the Jazz are committed to building around Mitchell and don’t plan to fully blow up the roster. If the team is open to trading Gobert, there are multiple teams that would be interested, but sources tell Jones that the three-time Defensive player of the Year remains “all in” on the Jazz and would like to spend the rest of his career with the organization.
  • Within the same story, Jones says that Quin Snyder‘s future will be determined one way or the other in “the coming days and weeks.” Sources tell The Athletic that Utah’s front office has been happy with the job Snyder has done and that he hasn’t lost the locker room, so if a coaching change occurs, Snyder may be the one instigating it.
  • In his offseason preview for the Jazz, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) argues that the team should remain focused on building around Mitchell and Gobert rather than breaking them up. While Utah has been hurt by small-ball lineups in playoff series in recent years, Marks says that’s more an indictment of the club’s perimeter defense than of Gobert.
  • Even before Utah’s Game 6 loss on Thursday, Zach Kram of The Ringer contended that it was time for the franchise to admit its roster shortcomings and prepare to shake things up this summer. Kram explores whether it would be in the Jazz’s best interests to consider trading Gobert or Mitchell — or even both.

Nets Rumors: Simmons, Irving, Harris, Curry, Dragic

When Ben Simmons and agent Rich Paul met with Nets leadership – including GM Sean Marks – earlier this week, Simmons told the people in the room that he’s experiencing a “mental block,” which is creating stress that could be exacerbating his back problems, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The setback Simmons experienced prior to his anticipated Nets debut in Game 4 of the team’s first-round series vs. Boston was initially described as a physical one — he was said to be suffering from renewed back pain. But Charania’s report suggests there are still mental obstacles to clear before Simmons returns to the court.

Reporting this week from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype backs up that idea. Fischer wrote that it’s “quite clear that the mental aspect of Simmons’ return to game action is the biggest hurdle” he has to overcome, while Scotto has heard from a source close to Simmons that the 25-year-old is “going through it right now mentally.”

According to Charania, Nets officials told Simmons in this week’s meeting that the franchise is willing to do whatever is necessary to support him, and Scotto hears that the team has indeed been “supportive at every turn,” making the three-time All-Star more comfortable than he was in Philadelphia. Simmons didn’t end up making it back this season, but Scotto’s source is “very confident” he’ll return to action next season.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Echoing Jake Fischer’s reporting from earlier in the week, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggests a Simmons trade this offseason is unlikely because teams are warier than ever about his condition. A source from a non-playoff team that was previously interested in Simmons told O’Connor, “We’re at the point we’d want to see him play first.”
  • Within his story on the Nets, O’Connor writes that there were “crickets” earlier in the 2021/22 season when the team was reportedly willing to listen to trade inquiries on Kyrie Irving.
  • The Nets had some interest in acquiring an athletic wing defender such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale, or Marcus Smart prior to this year’s trade deadline, according to Scotto, who thinks the team could explore the trade market for that type of player again this offseason. Scotto speculates that Brooklyn might dangle one of its sharpshooters – Joe Harris or Seth Curry – in those talks.
  • Goran Dragic, who turns 36 next Friday, isn’t considered retirement. The veteran point guard said this week that he’d like to play for two or three more seasons, tweets Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Dragic will be a free agent this summer after signing a rest-of-season contract with Brooklyn in February.

Fischer’s Latest: Simmons, Beal, J. Richardson, Jazz, Kemba

Having claimed earlier in the week that the Sixers hadn’t really been able to get in touch with Ben Simmons this offseason, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report clarifies in his latest article that the team’s brass has maintained contact with Simmons and his representatives. However, the 76ers have been “unable to collaborate” so far on a summer development plan for the former No. 1 pick.

Although league executives who have spoken to Fischer speculate that the Sixers may try to hang onto Simmons in the hopes that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard will eventually ask out of Portland, the “overwhelming” expectation is that Simmons will be dealt before the start of the 2021/22 season. Of the early discussions Philadelphia has had about the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, talks with the Raptors are thought to be the most advanced, Fischer adds.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • As Bradley Beal continues to weigh his future with the Wizards, there’s a growing expectation around the league that the All-Star guard might still decide he wants to stay in D.C., says Fischer.
  • The Mavericks have explored trade scenarios involving Josh Richardson, according to Fischer. Richardson still has to make a decision on his $11.6MM player option for 2021/22, but if he opts in, his expiring contract represents a logical trade chip if Dallas wants the flexibility to make a run at a top free agent.
  • After previously identifying Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, and Royce O’Neale as potential trade candidates if the Jazz look to trim team salary, Fischer now says O’Neale is likely to stick around, but Bogdanovic and/or Ingles could still be moved. Utah has also explored the possibility of trading Derrick Favors along with the No. 30 pick, Fischer adds.
  • The Thunder‘s front office believes it should be able to flip Kemba Walker for assets this summer if his medicals are good, according to Fischer (Twitter link). Walker’s contract, which has two years and $73.7MM left on it, isn’t favorable, so Oklahoma City would likely need to take on an equally bad deal – or multiple unwanted contracts – in order to acquire assets with positive value.