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Kevin Durant is busy aiming for his third Olympic gold in Tokyo. But beginning Monday, he can officially start talking with the Nets about his future in Brooklyn, signing a long-term contract extension.
Nets general manager Sean Marks has every intention of extending all of the Big Three this summer, with free agency officially tipping off Monday at 6 p.m. The question now is, are those three stars – Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving – all on the same page about staying in Brooklyn for the long haul? And with all three of them max players and money not the big factor, what goes into the decision?
“(You) like being in that environment, first of all. You enjoy playing the game, that’s the most important thing. I think we all three enjoy playing with each other,” Durant said when asked by the Post after Team USA practice on Tuesday morning. “But that’s a personal thing, and guys are different. I’m sure when the time is right I’m sure we’ll all make the right decision for ourselves.”
The Nets go into this upcoming season as the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title. But can they keep the band together?
The Big Three can all become free agents after the 2021-22 season. But they can also ink long-term extensions this summer that would keep them in Brooklyn through the 2025-26 campaign.
Durant – who’ll lead Team USA vs. Iran at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday – was asked by the Post what he specifically would look for in making his call.
“Just being in a great environment and being around teammates that enjoy the game,” said Durant. “Keep growing individually. That’s the most important thing; how we’re growing individually. Definitely how we come together as a team. I enjoy seeing my teammates get better; I enjoy getting better and have an environment that encourages that every single day.”
Coming off an 18-month layoff for Achilles surgery, Durant actually got better this past season and was nothing short of stellar – when he played.
Injures limited him to just 35 games, but he averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Durant had arguably his most efficient offensive campaign, posting career-bests in 3-point shooting (.450), True Shooting (.666) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (.608).
Harden and Irving were also solid when they played, only to see their injuries in the second-round loss to the eventual NBA-champion Bucks short-circuit what they feel should’ve been a deep playoff run.
They’ll run it back next season, presumably healthier. But this week’s talks will determine how long this Big Three stays together. And whether they’ll negotiate as a unified trio or three separate and distinct individuals.
Durant turns 33 before the season, so he isn’t eligible for a five-year extension due to the CBA’s over-38 rule according to former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks, now with ESPN.
He could re-up for four years, $197.7 million. Harden can sign for three years, $161.1 million. Irving can ink for four years, $181.6 million, or forgo an extension now and wait for a five-year, $235 million deal next summer.
“Obviously we’re committed to them. They play a big role in how we’re going to continue to build this, how we’re going to drive our culture and the identity of our team,” Sean Marks said after their elimination in the Eastern Conference semis. “What you see out there is when they’re healthy that’s a very, very elite unit.
“I don’t see any shortage of people wanting to play with them, people wanting to play alongside them or them wanting to be a part of something here. Now it’s going to be up to us to continue to make Brooklyn an environment where not only do they want to re-sign, but our free agents want to return to us and future people think ‘Hey, there’s a heck of an opportunity for me there in Brooklyn to play alongside and along with those high-caliber players.’ ”
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