Sports

Everyone in the NBA Just Changed Teams

A guide to the craziest night in the history of the transaction wire.

Members of Team LeBron watch play from the bench during the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.
All of these guys are on the same team now! (Not really.) (But maybe.)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It all began just before 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announced that Kevin Durant would sign with the Brooklyn Nets. A little more than an hour later, the soon-to-be ex-Warrior confirmed that news with an Instagram post that offered no explanation for his impending move but did feature both a Biggie backing track and the phrase “free agent moratorium period.”

The going theory is that Durant is heading to Brooklyn to “play with his friends.” Back in March, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Durant and Kyrie Irving—2016 NBA champion and modern-day Xenophanes of Colophon—“were like a middle school couple” during All-Star Weekend. (“Doing drills together at practice. ‘I’ll rebound for you. You rebound for me. I’ll post you up. You post me up.’ They were eating together. They went to Miami together after the weekend.”) Now, they’ll get to hang out all the time, although they likely won’t share the court for real until the fall of 2020, when Durant’s torn Achilles is healed. Also going to Brooklyn: center DeAndre Jordan, who’s been friends with Durant since the onetime Texas Longhorn hosted Jordan on a college visit. Durant’s recruiting efforts must not have been that amazing, because Jordan went to Texas A&M. In recent years, however, Durant and Jordan have come to share a tattoo artist, Steve Wiebe. That Steve Wiebe is not the same Steve Wiebe who’s really good at Donkey Kong.

With Durant, Irving, and Jordan coming to Brooklyn, D’Angelo Russell is on his way out. Early in the evening, rumor had it that Russell—who led the Nets to the playoffs this past season, averaging more than 20 points per game—was going to Minnesota to team up with Karl-Anthony Towns. One source for this rumor: Towns’ Instagram. (Russell’s Twitter handle is @Dloading.)

Karl-Anthony Towns, it turns out, is no Adrian Wojnarowski, and Russell is actually moving to … Golden State (!) in a sign-and-trade deal. That maneuver, for salary cap reasons that I do not presume to understand, will force the Warriors to further dismantle their post-Durant roster. Before the night was over, Golden State had already traded 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. (Rumor has it that Iguodala could end up with the Lakers.) Next year, Golden State will roll into its fancy new San Francisco arena with Russell, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green (who may or may not be getting a big contract extension), Klay Thompson (who is getting a five-year, $190 million max contract and may or may not make it back from his torn ACL in time to play this coming season), and whomever else they can retain or acquire on the cheap. It’s your time to shine, Alfonzo McKinnie!

Back to Brooklyn: It is important to note that the Nets are not the New York Knicks, and that the Knicks did not—as owner/JD & the Straight Shot frontman James Dolan predicted back in March—have “a very successful offseason when it comes to free agents.” The Knicks, who reportedly declined to offer Kevin Durant a max contract due to concerns about his health, are planning to sign four players (Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, and Reggie Bullock), three of whom play power forward and none of whom would reasonably be described as “all that great.” Enes Kanter did, though, recently call Zion Williamson “Julius Randle with hops.” (You’ll recall that the Knicks didn’t get Zion Williamson either.) Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis—the homegrown star the Knicks traded to carve out the salary cap space they needed to sign … uh, not Bobby Portis—agreed to a five-year, $158 million max contract with the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks, like the Nets, are not the New York Knicks.

This series of events made Stephen A. Smith cry.

It also led the Knicks’ president to issue a statement in which he insisted that the franchise “continue[s] to be upbeat,” which is a thing that organizations definitely say three hours into free agency when they’re really, truly upbeat.

(Also, let’s be real: The Knicks are probably lying about not offering Durant a max contract. That is definitely a thing the Knicks would lie about.)

Irving’s departure from the Celtics—a decision that, as most decisions do, involved both the Illuminati and a distaste for Boston—opened a backcourt slot for Kemba Walker, who apparently doesn’t mind Boston (yet) and whose thoughts on the Illuminati are as yet unknown. But just a few hours after getting Walker, Boston lost its star center Al Horford to the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly also re-signed Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million max contract, agreed to trade Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat (reportedly getting Josh Richardson in return), and lost JJ Redick to the New Orleans Pelicans. Joel Embiid, who is not going anywhere, tweeted a good tweet, as Joel Embiid is wont to do.

With the acquisition of Redick, the Pelicans have deepened their worrisome obsession with the Duke basketball program. (If you hear that they’ve signed Shavlik Randolph and/or anyone with the last name Plumlee, please encourage David Griffin to seek professional help.)

The Pelicans also reportedly acquired a non–Blue Devil on Sunday night: the Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors. Favors had to be dumped for salary cap reasons after the Jazz lured Bojan Bogdanovic from the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, in turn, will get Malcolm Brogdon from the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Bucks will sign Khris Middleton to a $178 million contract extension. The Jazz—who will roll out a crunch-time lineup of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert—might now be the favorites in the Western Conference, somehow. The Bucks—who still have league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo—might be the favorites in the Eastern Conference (until Durant gets healthy). Or maybe the Sixers should be the favorites. Or perhaps it’s the Toronto Raptors, who just won an NBA championship thanks to the efforts of a fun guy who loves the game of basketball.

Ah, Kawhi Leonard—what was he up to on this most frenzied of evenings?

Yeah, that’s about right.

Leonard could stay with the Raptors on a short-term deal and become a free agent again next year. Or he could sign with the Lakers, joining up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to form the league’s most powerful power trio. He could also go to the Clippers, if he wanted to be in L.A. and was really committed to trolling the Lakers. (Who could blame him, honestly.) On Sunday night and into Monday morning, it seemed as if the league’s pecking order was shifting tweet by tweet. Whoever gets Kawhi, though, will have the last laugh. (Aha, ha, ha, ha.)