The Phoenix Suns were not listed as one of “the most significant candidates” to trade for Kevin Durant in a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Monday morning, which said Durant told Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai over the weekend the franchise needs to choose between him or the firing of general manager Sean Marks and coach and former Suns legend Steve Nash.
While it would be easier to replace the GM and coach than a top-five NBA player, Tsai would have to make a serious about-face to gut his franchise’s brain trust at the request of a single player. According to Brian Windhorst, a reporter with ESPN, Tsai said earlier this offseason that he’d rather a hard-working mid-pack team than what he’s seen unfold recently.
Windhorst: "The billionaire owner Joe Tsai would rather have a team that plays hard that he's proud to own that wins 40 games and fights for the play-in than have a team that has way more talent that he's not proud to be a part of" https://t.co/zMsNew9bp8— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) July 1, 2022
***UPDATE at 5:00AZ time:
Nets owner Joe Tsai backed up that earlier stance by tweeting today that he supports the coaching staff and front office.
No mention of supporting Kevin Durant.
And no denial of the reported ultimatum either.
Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.— Joe Tsai (@joetsai1999) August 8, 2022
End of Update
Charania listed the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat as the biggest threats to acquire Durant, with Boston’s reported offer centering around All-Star forward Jaylen Brown seen as a “viable deal.”
Charania previously reported in late July the Suns were “all but eliminated” from a potential trade for Durant after they matched the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133 million offer sheet to retain starting center Deandre Ayton.
Here’s more on what Charania said took place during the meeting between Durant and Tsai:
“Durant and Tsai spoke in London on Saturday and sources described the discussion as transparent and professional. The meeting took place a year to the day that Durant agreed to a four-year, $198 million contract extension with the Nets and barely over a month after his initial trade request on June 30. He is now entering the first season of that extension.
The Nets have direct knowledge of the reasons behind Durant’s request, sources said, and understand that the 12-time All-Star will continue to be resolute in his stance. Durant is believed to want a change of scenery heading into his 16th season.”
Charania reiterated the Nets have set a “sky-high threshold” in a trade for Durant and teams have not yet been able, or willing, to meet their asking price. Durant also reportedly told Tsai he “does not have faith” in the Nets’ direction during their meeting and that “across the league,” people have wondered whether Durant could miss training camp should no trade develop.
Phoenix’s stance on acquiring Durant has seemed publicly unclear since it resigned Ayton on July 19. The Suns’ package in a trade for Durant could include forwards Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson along with players under expiring contracts, like Cameron Payne, Jae Crowder and Dario Saric, plus a full set of draft picks/swaps, though any formal offer to Brooklyn — if they have made one — has not been reported.
Flex from Jersey, a popular Twitter user who has broken Suns-related news earlier than national media outlets and hinted at the possibility of Phoenix landing a “true superstar” in May said most recently on an appearance with the “Gamatica” podcast with Anthony DiMoro on July 30 a trade for Durant will likely include three or four teams — potentially the Suns, Utah Jazz, New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings — and that Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell could have a big impact on that deal.
Flex has been most clear on his “Coast to Coast” podcast that the Suns are Durant’s preferred destination, which Yahoo! Sports senior NBA insider Chris Haynes also indicated in late June.
In our SB Nation Reacts story on Aug. 4, most fans believed the Suns will retain Crowder and Johnson, who were key role players on Phoenix’s franchise record-breaking 64-win team last season. Among the fanbase, hope for a Durant trade to the Suns has clearly dimmed.
Regardless of whether they acquire Durant, the Suns appear to be in great position to compete for championships in the near future. First-team All-NBA guard Devin Booker signed a four-year, $224 million supermax extension on July 7, coach Monty Williams agreed to a long-term contract extension on July 23 and they have Ayton back after what seemed to be a lengthy negotiation process.
Phoenix has been arguably the best team in the league over the last two-and-a-half seasons, posting an 8-0 record in the 2020 NBA bubble and a 115-49 record over the last two years combined. They have also appeared in the most playoff games the past two playoffs (tied with Bucks) and have the second-most playoff wins in that span.