How precisely does one get out of a contract with 4 years left on it?

That’s the dilemma dealing with Kevin Durant as his demands for a trade have to date not come to fruition, whereas coaching camp hurtles towards us on the calendar. Durant is shuffling by means of the completely different playing cards in his hand to attempt to drive his method out, however as we’ll see, the issue is that none of them are sturdy sufficient on their very own to compel the Nets to behave.

Two numbers, specifically, are working towards him: He’ll be 34 by opening night time and he has 4 years left on his contract.

The first of these numbers has made rival groups extra cautious than the Nets hoped about unloading a Brinks truck-worth of expertise and picks in return for Brooklyn’s star ahead. Durant, a 12-time All-Star, continues to be in his prime, however most likely not for for much longer.

Meanwhile, the 4 years left on the deal give the Nets on a regular basis on the earth to discover a decision. Durant reportedly submitting a listing of most popular locations with solely two groups on it (Miami and Phoenix) — golf equipment that now face near-impossible cap constraints on any believable commerce — additional narrowed the scope of potentialities. But even when Durant was open-minded to someplace like, say, Boston or Toronto, the Nets maintain the leverage right here. Durant can demand a commerce ’til he’s blue within the face, however solely the Nets can commerce him. He’s not a free agent till 2026, having signed an extension final fall underneath his personal free will.

With whispers growing in quantity that the Nets would possibly attempt to convey Durant again for coaching camp and see the way it goes, Durant turned to the following web page within the Getmeouttahere Playbook: brinkmanship. Throwing both his coach and GM under the bus — in lots of circumstances for strikes that got here with a wink and nod from Durant’s camp — definitely makes it much less seemingly the Nets will discover it tenable to reunite everybody within the fall.

Of course, this gambit provides no ensures. The commerce provides in entrance of the Nets right this moment aren’t any completely different from those they rejected yesterday, and it’s not clear how or if Durant’s newest demand will compel motion.

This might make issues attention-grabbing as we get into fall. Seemingly the sharpest arrow left in Durant’s quiver is pure hardball: a holdout, one that may value him a bit of his $44 million 2022-23 wage for each day he sat out. It would, paradoxically, be a close to carbon-copy of the state of affairs a yr in the past in Philadelphia with Durant’s occasional teammate Ben Simmons.

Here’s the factor: The Nets are engaged on a unique timeline than the Sixers had been. Philadelphia was underneath strain to maximise an MVP-caliber season from Joel Embiid, particularly with the East wanting vast open. Thus, as a lot because the Sixers talked about their willingness to play it out for a whole season or longer if want be, the very fact is they’d some actual motivation to finish a Simmons deal earlier than the commerce deadline. (James Harden’s availability clearly greased that endgame, however the Sixers’ quandary was obvious lengthy earlier than that.)

That wouldn’t appear to be the case with the 2022-23 Nets. If something, they’d appear to have the alternative motivation. Yes, Brooklyn’s first selection could be to run it again with Durant, Simmons and Kyrie Irving (or an appropriate substitute). But within the absence of Durant, wouldn’t the Nets’ second selection be to tank the season and check out once more in 2024? And wouldn’t a Durant holdout do nothing greater than speed up the Nets towards that endgame?

The presumptive cause for the Nets to not tank is that their subsequent 5 drafts are owed to the Houston Rockets on account of the 2021 commerce for Harden. But Brooklyn can nonetheless get a excessive lottery decide in 2023. Yes, the Nets have an unprotected decide swap with Houston within the upcoming draft, however that also seemingly leads to an ideal decide if the Nets are unhealthy. The Rockets are build up their younger expertise, however they’re not precisely poised to run roughshod over the West simply but; Houston went 20-62 final season and traded its main scorer for the twenty sixth decide within the draft.

Thus, a one-season tank would possibly really be one of the best ways for the Nets to maximise their return on a Durant commerce demand. If Durant holds out and the Nets commerce Irving to the Lakers for a Russell Westbrook-led bundle, this Nets group has all the required substances to backside out for a yr. Even if Simmons performs and performs at his Philadelphia degree, the remainder of the roster isn’t adequate to win with out Durant and Irving. Additionally, if the Nets aren’t paying Durant attributable to a holdout, the associated subject of being deep within the luxurious tax for a nasty group largely goes away. (The Nets could be one small commerce away from getting out of the tax with their current roster.)

Meanwhile, the Nets are largely inoculated from the draw back of the decide swap by the probability of Houston additionally being unhealthy. If each groups stink, the Nets’ worst-case state of affairs continues to be a excessive lottery decide.

This, in flip, takes us again to Durant and how on earth he extricates himself from a group that holds his rights for one more 4 years. Merely demanding a commerce hasn’t completed the specified consequence, and it’s not clear whether or not throwing the coach and GM underneath the bus will both. Brooklyn’s best-case state of affairs could also be ready till midseason, when this summer season’s free brokers are eligible to be dealt. It appears much less seemingly they’d let a yr of Durant’s contract wither on the vine at his age and wait till subsequent offseason … however it will possibly’t completely be dominated out both given the tanking incentive.

If Durant continues to be a Net as coaching camp begins, the query of subsequent steps takes on extra urgency. Ideally, he might drive the Nets’ hand by holding out, however the actuality of Brooklyn’s present state of affairs is {that a} holdout may not be so unhealthy.

This takes us to the ultimate card left for Durant to play, one which he could also be reluctant to placed on the desk for a wide range of causes however might find yourself being the best: Show up, get his numbers whereas going half-speed on protection, skip each third sport with “general soreness” and do exactly sufficient to maintain this group competent whilst he makes everybody depressing within the course of. (Helpfully, his good pal Irving has lots of expertise on this space.)

In a roundabout method, that may be the last word irony. Few gamers appear to care extra about their public notion than Durant, but the one method to obtain his desired end result is likely to be to indicate up and act like an enormous jerk. Even then, it’s nonetheless not assured to work.

And with that, we loop round to an excellent bigger-picture subject, one which will assist soothe some minds in entrance places of work because the league and the NBA Players’ Association negotiate their subsequent collective bargaining settlement. Wriggling out of a long-term contract continues to be actually, actually laborious, even when you’re one of many 5 greatest gamers within the league. All the frayed nerves from the current Paul George and Simmons conditions might calm a bit as groups see this play out.

Ultimately, there are lots of issues Kevin Durant can strive doing to get himself out of Brooklyn, however not one of the playing cards he can play appear assured to safe a fast exit. There simply isn’t sufficient leverage with 4 years nonetheless left on his deal.

He can demand a commerce and trash administration, and possibly he can maintain out or miss video games with doubtful accidents or play matador protection.

The one factor he can’t do, nevertheless, is get on the telephone and commerce himself.

Related studying

Harper: A timeline of the Kevin Durant saga
Schiffer: Ultimatum raises more questions for Nets

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(Photo of Kevin Durant: Brad Penner / USA Today)

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