‘It Wasn’t LeBron’: Brooklyn Nets’ Former GM Reveals How They Traded Stars to Attract Kevin Durant.

Published 05/25/2021, 6:00 AM EDT
Feb 13, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Kevin Durant (7) rest near the team bench during a timeout against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter at the Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports


In the NBA, every big market team wants to become a super-team by hiring a deadly duo or rather a big three. However, the price to pay for such acquisitions and the backend work required to attract those talents is always too high. Still, Brooklyn Nets is one franchise that has done this extraordinary job not once, but twice in the last eight years.

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Back in 2013, the Nets traded Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, and three unprotected first-round picks to the Celtics. In return, they received the veteran champions in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. But what went wrong even after this massive draft night swap?

When Brooklyn Nets let go of their stars to attract Kevin Durant

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After changing its name from the New Jersey Nets to the Brooklyn Nets, the volatile franchise needed some stability. So, right after appearing in their first playoff series in six years, the Nets welcomed the Celtics stars into its roster. But it was not what it appeared it was, as the organization knew that the stars were past their prime years. So why did they make one such trade?

In a recent interview, former Nets GM Billy King raised curtains off this secret and revealed their visionary mindset. They did all of that to impress and attract Kevin Durant (an OKC player) in a future free agency. 

The 55-YO proudly detailed, “The focus was Durant. It wasn’t LeBron, it was: Do EVERYTHING we can to put ourselves in position to get Durant. I was in a position where he saw me—and knew. You just make sure that, if you do everything right, they take notice. We had done a great job with the branding & opening, & if we can be a playoff team, we can get on national TV, & when it came time, we would be able to get into the conversation.”

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So what happened after that 2013 move?

Paul Pierce (36), Kevin Garnett (37), and Jason Terry (36) had joined the comparatively younger stars in Brook Lopez (25), Joe Johnson (31), and Deron Williams (29). As a result, the group enjoyed little success when they reached the 2014 conference semis only to lose against the Big Three of Miami Heat. With this, although the Nets didn’t become a championship threat, they proved their playoff worthiness.

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In the following years, they let go of all those stars from its roster and soon became a 20, 21, and 28-win team. However, all that dismantling and rebuilding was aligned with the vision to attract Kevin Durant who instead joined the Warriors in 2016. 

Apr 5, 2021; Kevin Durant fist pumps Kyrie Irving after a game against the Knicks at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Still, the persistence of the Nets under their new manager in Sean Marks came to fruition when they finally signed KD and Kyrie Irving (again from the C’s). They then added a flurry of stars and are now standing at the cusp of winning a title.

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Do you see this long-term strategy as worthy of all the pain? Help us know in the comments.

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Sourabh Singh

1258 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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