Who's behind the report that Durant wants to play with Marcus Smart?

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

Jayson Tatum is one of the NBA’s brightest young stars; yet, Kevin Durant wants to play with Marcus Smart?

Something seems off here.

Durant reportedly wants to play with Smart

NBA reporter Ian Begley of SNY reported Wednesday that Durant considers the Celtics a “desired landing spot,” and specifically noted the 12-time All-Star would like to team up with Smart. With all due respect to Smart, that’s a little curious. He’s a tenacious defender with a deep playoff resume, but doesn’t qualify as a star. His offensive limitations were apparent in the postseason, especially when he went 12-of-37 from the field over the Celtics’ final two games against the Heat.

Whenever trade rumors surface, it’s important to ask which side is behind the gossip. It’s apparent the Celtics are hesitant to relinquish Smart in a trade. They reportedly offered the Nets Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and a draft pick for Durant, but the Nets countered with Smart.

Trade discussions reportedly haven’t progressed since then. The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach wrote Wednesday “there’s been no real traction” on a deal that would send Durant to Boston. Himmelsbach downplayed Boston’s interest, highlighting that every NBA team has phoned Brooklyn about its disgruntled superstar.

In the same story, Himmelsbach mentioned the Nets once asked for Tatum and Brown — an obvious laugher.

The Celtics are seemingly playing hard to get, and meanwhile, Durant is becoming increasingly agitated with his situation. Earlier this week, NBA Insider Shams Charania reported he gave the Nets an ultimatum: they have to choose him, or management. Brooklyn own Joe Tsai came out Monday night with a statement of support for head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.

The Celtics appear to want Durant on their terms, and he clearly wants to get out of Brooklyn. That’s where Smart comes in.

Charania, who’s been all over the Durant story, reported this week that the two-time champion has “grown close” with Ime Udoka in recent years, dating back to Udoka’s stint as an assistant for the Nets in 2020 and later with Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics.

Udoka is a big supporter of Smart’s, and it’s possible he’s stressed that in conversations with Durant and his representatives. The report that Durant wants to play in Boston with Smart serves the Celtics’ purposes.

Conversely, it boxes the Nets into a corner. They apparently want Smart to be part of a Durant trade, but the Celtics are unwilling to deal him, and Durant wants to play with him. At the same time, Durant’s market has seemingly cooled. There might not be many other options.

The Celtics can probably offer Brooklyn the best package for Durant, largely due to Brown. Durant might be using his muscle to try and get a deal through.