Kyrie, KD defend trade requests: Good for NBA

SALT LAKE CITY — Back in the same place just a couple of weeks after their individual trade demands brought an end to a tantalizing era of Brooklyn Nets basketball, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving defended their decisions.

And according to Durant, the roster upheaval they initiated actually benefits the NBA.

“I don’t think it’s bad for the league,” Durant said Saturday during his All-Star player’s news conference. “It’s bringing more eyes to the league, more people are more excited. The tweets that I get; the news hits that we got from me being traded, Kyrie being traded; it just brings more attention to the league and that’s really what rakes the money in, when you get more attention. So, I think it’s great for the league, to be honest.”

Irving was making $38.9 million in the final year of his contract with the Nets and seeking a long-term extension when contract talks broke down and he asked to be traded. Brooklyn found a willing trade partner in the Dallas Mavericks in a matter of days and made the deal to send Irving out.

Durant, who was in the midst of a four-year, $198 million contract with the Nets, asked to be traded next — revisiting a request he initially voiced in the offseason. The night before the trade deadline, Brooklyn brokered a deal with the Phoenix Suns to send the former MVP to the Western Conference.

Irving balked at the backlash that he and Durant received for taking matters into their own hands.

“It’s a bad situation,” Irving said Saturday. “Why doesn’t anyone have the ability to ask for trades? That’s my question. When did it become terrible to make great business decisions for yourself and your happiness and peace of mind? Not every employer you’re going to get along with, so if you have the chance to go somewhere else and you’re doing it legally, I don’t think there’s a problem with it.”

Irving’s and Durant’s demands followed a recent trend of high-profile NBA players asking to be traded, from Jimmy Butler with the Minnesota Timberwolves to Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans, to Paul George with the Oklahoma City Thunder, to Russell Westbrook with the Washington Wizards, to Irving doing it once before with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017. Not to mention James Harden with the Brooklyn Nets just last season, putting the first crack in the foundation of Brooklyn’s supposed superteam that never fully formed.

While those players’ commitments to honoring the contracts they originally agreed to could be called into question, Durant pointed out the league had for years held all the control with roster maneuvers.

“Teams have been trading players and making acquisitions for a long time,” Durant said. “Now when a player can kind of dictate where he wants to go and leave in free agency and demand a trade, it’s just part of the game now. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s bringing more and more excitement to the game.”

Irving said the business of professional sports puts undue pressure on players’ career decisions that doesn’t exist for employees in other industries.

“Speculation and narratives is what makes this entertainment kind of seem a little bit more important or more of a priority than it actually is,” Irving said. “Like, it’s my life. It’s not just a dream that everybody can gossip about. … When you work as hard as I do or anyone else in a specific profession, I feel like you should have the liberty and the freedom to go where you’re wanted, where you’re celebrated and where you feel comfortable.”

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