Jeff Phelps: What Should KD, Kyrie, LeBron Actually Do? I Know What I’d Do


KEVIN DURANT – Brooklyn Nets

…I’d be having second thoughts about that trade request.

In a league that caters most everything to its superstar players, Durant’s desire to move on from Brooklyn hasn’t gone over well. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had this to sayJeff Phelps about Durant’s situation: ”Look, this needs to be a two-way street. Teams provide enormous security (and) guarantees to players. The expectation is, in return, that they’ll meet their end of the bargain.” In Durant’s case, the “bargain” is a 4-year, $198-million contract extension that begins this year. He’s under contract until the summer of 2026.

Durant turns 34 in September. He left Golden State in a sign and trade deal, after winning two championships with the Warriors, then tearing his Achilles. Now after two seasons of things not working out as hoped in Brooklyn, KD wants to move on? Again? Bad look, and the Commish is right. Durant’s not meeting his end of the bargain. He signed a deal to play for the Nets. Twice. Despite that, the Nets have reportedly been trying to accommodate Durant’s request, but have been unimpressed with offers, and are considering just keeping KD — for now anyway.

So how about this — Durant stays in Brooklyn, plays like he always plays, and the Nets take a shot at an NBA title. Any team that Durant plays for will have championship aspirations, for good reason. It might be best for the NBA, the Nets, and Durant and his image and legacy, if he remains in Brooklyn.

KYRIE IRVING – Brooklyn Nets

…I’d be thinking it’s time to have a very productive, very healthy and very uneventful season. Little or no drama please.

Kyrie is a tremendous basketball player, and sometimes, a tremendous pain-in-the-%#@ for his league, his team, and sometimes his teammates. 

In his 3 seasons with Brooklyn, Kyrie played in only 103 regular season games. Injuries, vaccination status, whatever — he couldn’t be counted on. At the age of 30, he’s reached a pivotal point in his career. He picked up the $36.9 million player option in his contract for next season. Smart move.

Here’s hoping the storylines surrounding Kyrie next season and beyond involve his incredible play, and not God-knows-what. Kyrie can make that happen, if he so chooses. And wouldn’t it be fun to see Kyrie and Durant doing what they set out to do in Brooklyn

LeBRON JAMES – Los Angeles Lakers

…I’d be wondering if I have any chance of winning big if I remain a Los Angels Laker. And if I wonder about it enough, I’d think the answer is no.

There are more than a few reasons LeBron should come to that conclusion:

  • In his three years as a Laker, Anthony Davis has missed nine, 36 and 42 regular-season games. In his 10 NBA seasons, Davis has played more than 68 games only twice. Think he’s suddenly going to start being available for 80 games a season?  Anybody for 75? Me neither.
  • Though Russell Westbrook can still be a pretty dang good player, he used to be a great player, and he never seemed to fit with the Lakers. But didn’t most folks think that would be the case? Ball-dominant point guard, ball-dominant point forward, two guys who love putting up big stats, could LeBron and Russ make it work? At times they did, but more often than not, uh, well… not so much. Add in the fact that Russ will be 34 next season, and you have to think the Lakers will need to move Westbrook. So far, no takers. And there’s no guarantee that if Westbrook does get moved, his replacement will be a better fit that makes the Lakers sing.
  • It’s not like the Lakers were good last season. They were 33-49 and didn’t make the playoffs. Not even the play-in tournament.
  • Darvin Ham has never been an NBA head coach. Highly thought of assistant coach, yes. A show of hands please…. who thinks Ham can pull a Ty Lue and win an NBA title with LeBron as a rookie head coach?
  • LeBron will be 38 in December. At some point, and don’t ask me when, he has to slow down a little bit doesn’t he? It didn’t happen last year. He averaged 30.3 points per game — his highest scoring average in 14 seasons, since 2007-08. Wow. But LeBron also played in just 56 games, and again, the Lakers were 16-games under .500. LeBron can’t be expected to do it all by himself, now more than ever before.

All that said, what options does LeBron have? Demand a trade to championship contender? Move his family as his oldest son enters his senior year of high school? Hang in there in LA until his son reaches the NBA (no pressure there Bronny) then follow him wherever and perhaps have to put winning on the back burner? Leave Los Angeles for wherever, a place that works perfectly for all of LeBron’s other business interests?

It is LeBron, and as we’ve seen too many times before, with LeBron most anything is possible. But his current situation with the Lakers doesn’t lend itself to optimism, especially in that very competitive Western Conference.

WILL HARDY – Utah Jazz

… I’d be giddy about the opportunity I now have as head coach of the Utah Jazz. 

Yes, Danny Ainge has already traded away Rudy Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell could be next. But the last time Ainge hired a coach, it was 36-year-old Brad Stevens in Boston.  Hardy is 34. Stevens spent eight seasons as head coach in Boston before being promoted to President of Basketball Operations after Ainge left the Celtics. Ainge let his young coach develop in Boston. He’ll do the same in Utah. Ainge is also stock-piling draft picks in Utah, just like he did in Boston. It all worked beautifully for Stevens  in Boston, it should all work beautifully for Hardy in Utah.

DEANDRE AYTON – Phoenix Suns

… I’d be thrilled that I’ll be returning to the Phoenix Suns, and I’d keep trying to forget that Monty Williams played me only 17 minutes in the Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Hey, those things happen, right?

The Suns showed how badly they want Ayton back by immediately matching the 4-year, $133-million offer sheet that Ayton received from Indiana — the largest offer sheet in NBA history. They didn’t try to pull off a sign and trade, instead, they just put the #1 overall pick in 2018 back into the middle of their future.

Ayton is only 24. He’s been very good for Phoenix, but still has room to get a lot better, to perhaps become a dominant player.  If he does, the Suns will remain one of the NBA’s top teams for some time to come.

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