Home Sports Nets seen as 'front-runner' in Kevin Durant chase – New York Post

Nets seen as 'front-runner' in Kevin Durant chase – New York Post

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“Watch. I’m telling you, this could be transformational.”

That’s what a highly placed source told The Post regarding the Nets’ pursuit of free agents. It’s looking more and more possible that Kevin Durant could be part of that transformation.

The Nets’ dream scenario has long been to sign both Durant and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving as free agents this summer. Even a cursory glance at general manager Sean Marks’ moves over the past few weeks shows he has been clearing a path to the money needed for those max deals.

Now the Nets are reportedly “gaining confidence” they can land Durant, with Kendrick Perkins flatly saying on ESPN that Brooklyn is in the driver’s seat to sign his former Thunder teammate.

“I think they’re the front-runner. I absolutely do. I think the Nets are the front-runner to land KD,” Perkins said on “The Jump,” with reporter Brian Windhorst joining in and saying Perkins was not the only person involved with the NBA expressing that view.

“I’m not ruling out the Knicks, but I think the Nets are the front-runners and people are not giving them their [respect],” Perkins said. “Sources tell me the Nets are the front-runner.”

Perkins never explicitly stated Durant was his source. But it’s important to note the two played together in Oklahoma City from 2011-15 and remain close to this day. If he’s saying Durant is leaning toward the Nets, it stands to reason their chances are at least solid.

Durant will be an unrestricted free agent if, as expected, he opts out of the final $31.5 million year on his deal with Golden State.

The Nets — or any other team — could offer him a four-year, $164 million contract. He could re-sign with the Warriors for a staggering five-year, $221 million pact, or even do a delayed sign-and-trade to get his money and get shipped to a destination of his choice.

No matter the team Durant spends next year with, he’ll spend it rehabbing from surgery after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Durant was operated on in Manhattan at Hospital For Special Surgery by Dr. Martin O’Malley, who not only repaired his broken foot in 2015, but is the Nets’ team orthopedist.

Despite the fact Durant might not suit up again until he’s 32 and would be coming off a year-long layoff, the potential of pairing him with Irving has to be a tantalizing one for the Nets. The Post has also reported the Nets are in a strong position to pry Irving away from Boston.

Fox Sports 1 reported several days ago that the Nets are expected to get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard, and sources told The Post there’s mutual interest with Tobias Harris.

“The guys that are free agents, all of them, I would assume, have spent the last year or two surveying the league. They know where they want to go, they know what they want to be a part of,” Marks said. “Our young guys have done a nice job to put themselves in that position.”

The Nets are in that position thanks to some shrewd roster management and salary cap maneuvering by Marks. They’ve cleared roughly $69 million in room — $2 million shy of what’s needed.

Marks cleared Allen Crabbe’s $18.5 million expiring deal with a June 6 trade. Then he renounced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s rights. And Thursday he cleared another $2 million by essentially deferring a first-round pick into next year’s draft.

More moves are needed, but the ones made so far will prevent them from having to sacrifice a major part such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris or Taurean Prince.

Considering how meticulous Marks has proven, it strains credulity to think he would’ve made all these moves without, if not a promise from a star, then at least a firm belief that one is coming. Or a chance for two.

That would qualify as transformational.

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