The Nets Are in Denial

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Nets’ preference right now is to simply run it back with the roster they have.

This is why there haven’t been any trades despite KD requesting out in early July.

This is the reason the Nets don’t like any of the offers that have been made for both KD and Kyrie.

The Nets don’t want to trade either of them. They’ve got KD under contract for 4 more years and Kyrie under contract for 1 more year.

So in their minds, why should they trade either of them?

This is why you’re seeing stuff like this:

If the Nets trade Kyrie for Westbrook, that’s a rebuilding trade.

The only reason a team would take on Russell Westbrook is because of his $47 million expiring contract. By now it’s obvious he’s not getting you closer to a Championship. You cannot win a Championship with him as your 1, 2 or 3. So his only value is as an expiring contract.

But the Nets don’t want to make that kind of trade, especially with KD still on the roster. There is no way the Nets could trade Kyrie for Westbrook straight up with KD still on the roster.

The Nets want to convince KD to stay. Pairing him up with Westbrook again achieves the exact opposite of that.

And so that’s why any potential trade sending Kyrie to the Lakers will have to send Russ to a third team, and then that third team sends attractive pieces to the Nets to help them win now.

The Nets are still in win now mode even though their two superstars are disgruntled and want out–well, at least KD does. We actually don’t know for certain if Kyrie wants out, he hasn’t actually said he wants to be traded. We’re all just assuming he wants out because KD wants out, and/or the Nets want Kyrie gone because they don’t want him without KD on the team. But he hasn’t actually publicly requested a trade as far as I know.

So the fact that the Nets are still in win-now mode is why KD and Kyrie are still on the Nets roster.

From the Nets point of view, the only thing they’ll accept is a trade of equivalent “win now” value for both of their superstars, or nothing at all. They either get a king’s ransom for both guys, or they don’t move them at all. That’s what the Nets are thinking right.

Again, they have KD under contract for 4 more years and Kyrie under contract for 1 more year.

They don’t have any interest in trading Kyrie for Westbrook and 2 picks because that’s a rebuilding trade, and the Nets have no interest in rebuilding currently.

With KD, they are asking for the sun, the moon and the stars because they feel that if they’re going to deal KD, they need to get a return that makes them Championship contenders. Otherwise, what sense does it make for them to trade a guy like KD who has 4 years left on his deal?

Now, right off the bat, the Nets are being unreasonable for one major reason: they are not championship contenders currently with KD and Kyrie on the roster. So for them to ask for championship-caliber talent in return for those guys is just ridiculous.

KD and Kyrie got swept in the first round, let’s not forget.

So that’s another area where the Nets are in denial and/or delusional: I think the Nets are vastly over-estimating just how valuable KD and Kyrie are on the open market.

There is not a lot of interest in them–especially Kyrie. Only the Lakers want Kyrie, really.

And the teams that do want KD are not offering what the Nets consider “championship talent.”

But why would they when they’re not getting championship talent in return?

This is a point I’ve been harping on all offseason: KD is only a championship player on paper, in theory.

Sure, you would think that you’d be a championship contender with this unicorn 6’11” small forward sniper who can pull up from anywhere. But he’s been in the league 14 years, and it hasn’t worked out that way thus far.

The only time KD has actually won Championships is when he was in Golden State, and there was literally no pressure on him at all. Well, let me rephrase that: there was no fear of failure when he was with Golden State. That’s the reason I say there was no pressure on him; I mean internal pressure, pressure he puts on himself driven by his fear of failure.

With Golden State, he knew that basically no matter what, they were winning the Championship. So he was able to play free and loose. He didn’t have that fear in the back of his mind every time he pulled up for a shot that if he missed, they were probably going to lose.

He didn’t have to be perfect. He knew that even if he had a bad game, they would still win because he had Steph, Klay, Draymond and Iguodala on the team.

In 2019, the Warriors were a Klay Thompson injury away from getting to a Game 7 of the Finals without KD. And in June of this year, the Warriors won a title without KD entirely.

And that’s why I don’t give KD any credit for what he did in Golden State: there was no pressure on him. He turned a great team into an unbeatable team.

Other teams know this. They look at KD’s track record outside of Golden State and they know you’re not a guaranteed Finals contender with him on your roster. No matter how much his meat-riders in the media gush over him and his on-paper talent, he is not LeBron. He is not a guaranteed trip to the Finals.

And he’s not a leader, either. He’s not a franchise cornerstone. He doesn’t care to hold guys accountable or serve as the emotional leader. He’s a guy who will flake when the going gets rough.

Physically, he’s a championship-level player. But mentally, he’s not.

And so he’s not a Championship-level player, then.

It should speak volumes about KD that he’s been on the trade block for nearly 2 months now and has not been traded yet. That should tell you everything you need to know about him.

You think Steph or Giannis or Luka would last this long on the open market? Hell no.

I, like Giannis, still believe LeBron is the best player in the league. But because LeBron is turning 38 in about 4 months, his trade value is a little different than those other guys. I still think LeBron would have been traded by now, though, if he was in KD’s situation. In other words, I think LeBron’s trade value is actually higher than KD’s. The only reason it might not be is because he’s been prone to injuries over the past few years. But in terms of who is more likely to lead you to a Championship right now in 2022 going into the 2023 season, it’s LeBron.

So the Nets are in denial here on multiple fronts: they’re in denial over how much their superstars are worth. They think they can get Championship-caliber talent back for Kyrie when there’s only one team in the whole league actually interested in trading for him. And they think they should get Championship talent back for KD even though it’s pretty clear by now that KD is not viewed around the league as a Championship-level player.

The Nets are also in denial about having to trade KD and/or Kyrie in the first place, too. They don’t think they have to do it. And technically–on paper–they’re correct because both guys are under contract.

But what happens when KD sits out of training camp? What happens if he shoes up and the team inevitably starts playing poorly, because the superstar player and the coach don’t get along?

The Nets are a mess right now. This isn’t being reported, but I think KD doesn’t want to play with Kyrie anymore and that’s the reason he’s requesting out of Brooklyn. How is that duo supposed to work now?

There is no trust or good will between KD and Steve Nash because KD has gone public with his claim that he wants Steve Nash fired. How are they supposed to co-exist?

This Nets team is doomed. Joe Tsai is stubbornly refusing to admit it. He thinks that just because he has KD and Kyrie under contract that they’ll come back and play for him and lead him to a Championship.

For one thing, that was never happening even if they were both happy as clams on that team. They got swept in the first round of the playoffs when KD and Kyrie were BOTH FULLY HEALTHY. The Nets are not a championship-caliber team, and adding TJ Warren, Royce O’Neal and Ben Simmons to the equation doesn’t change that fact.

Second, there’s just no way this team will be able to succeed even if KD and Kyrie come back and play every game. There’s too much drama, discord and distrust. The Nets have the worst team chemistry in the NBA right now.

The smart move would just be for Joe Tsai to admit it’s over, and try to move KD and Kyrie for as many draft picks and/or expiring contracts as possible. Start the rebuild now.

Because if this spills over into the season, Joe Tsai loses even more trade leverage. Worst case scenario for him is KD doesn’t even show up and sits out games. At that point, Joe Tsai’s need to trade him goes through the roof while KD’s trade value goes down. That’s the nightmare scenario.

Only slightly better of a scenario is KD showing up to play, but the Nets are a mediocre team because KD’s heart isn’t in it. It’s inevitable that a guy who doesn’t want to be there and doesn’t get along with the coach isn’t going to be able to give his best effort. It’s just not possible. In this case, Joe Tsai also loses a ton of leverage while his need to trade KD increases exponentially.

The only way this actually works out for Joe Tsai is if KD comes back, plays, and the Nets are a top-3 seed in the East from day one. That’s the only way Joe Tsai wins here.

But I don’t think anyone believes that’s going to happen.

The best move for Joe Tsai would be to simply accept that this situation is unsalvageable and that it’s over. It’s time for him to cut his losses here. Digging in will only make things worse down the road.

Joe Tsai had KD, Harden and Kyrie on his team and didn’t get a Championship out of it. He struck out. Tough situation, but those are the breaks. That’s what happens when you go into business with three of the biggest headcases in the NBA.

I think Joe Tsai is in denial over the fact that it’s over. It’s like if I bought a stock, and suddenly it went up 100,000% and now I’m suddenly worth like $10 million, but then the stock goes right back down and I lose all of my paper gains. I was millionaire on paper for a brief moment, but I didn’t cash in, and now I’m right back where I started.

That’s Joe Tsai here: he had KD, Harden and Kyrie on his team at one point. But he didn’t get a Championship out of it and now he has nothing to show for it. He is in denial over the fact that it is all slipping away from him before his very eyes.

He’s got to cut his losses soon. Admit it’s over, start the rebuild.

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