Sean Marks on Kevin Durant situation: 'If he still wanted out, he wouldn't be here'

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“First and foremost, I’m not his boss, we’re partners in this. And if he wanted out, and still wanted out, he wouldn’t be here.”

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A blunt statement from Nets general manager Sean Marks, responding at Nets Media Day Monday to a question about Kevin Durant’s reported trade demand (read: KD says he never ‘demanded’ anything) and then rescinding whatever he had asked for.

And, to Marks, having to navigate that amidst an already chaotic summer was quite tricky.

“When a player of that stature says this may not be the place for me and wants to be somewhere else, what can you learn from that?” Marks asked. You have to sit back and wonder why, and wonder if you can change it or if they’re steadfast in their approach. We spent a lot of time talking as a group, and we’re very thankful that we’re here. That’s not an easy ultimatum to handle, but everyone has to own that. Collectively as an organization, no one was happy. It gave us an opportunity to reflect."

There were also reports that Durant gave Nets owner Joe Tsai an ultimatum of “him or them,” them being Marks and head coach Steve Nash, but that was news to the GM.

“He and I never had that exact conversation but I think we have a mutual respect for one another. This has been a tough offseason for a lot of people so let’s own it,” Marks said. "That’s pro sports. I’m sure there’s plenty of things that go on behind the scenes. We’ve both lived on that side of the locker room, and everyone is entitled to their opinions.”

So how do Marks and Nash feel about it, and how can they change things going forward with KD?

“I totally understand it was a frustrating season. I don't know anyone who was more frustrated than the two of us. We’re all in this and understand what our ultimate goal is,” Marks said. “Now, for us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s being able to say, 'if that’s what he feels, what’s going on here? What do we need to change?'”

Added Nash: "Kevin and I go way back. Families go through things like this – adversity, disagreements. This is not new to the NBA; it’s a part of the process, it's the part of working in this business that’s super competitive. We are all prideful, we all have expectations, and when you get dinged up like we did last year, everyone is disappointed. We cleared the air, we spoke and we’re on the same page. We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to build on."

Durant talked during his media day session about why he requested the trade, and his biggest reason was that he had concerns about culture, and why the Nets went into a tailspin at times last year.

He said he’s 100 percent in now, and the GM is committed to making sure the process of communication and culture change is ongoing.

“You talk about building a culture and you want people who have the conviction to be here and be part of something bigger than themselves – you heard Kevin talk about it. Those are things we addressed all summer long, and we’ll continue to address them,” Marks said. “It’s not a perfect situation and never will be, but it’s how you have these championship characteristics and follow them through when adversity strikes – and it always will. It’s how you respond to those things, and that’s something we’ll have to continue to work on.”

Durant also noted how he appreciated that Marks told him that he was too good of a player to just give away, and Marks admitted “it’s kind of hard to get like-for-like” when dealing a mega-star like that – and he had GMs call him after KD decided to stay and tell Marks they wouldn’t have dealt Durant, either.

But now it’s about the future, and just like KD sort of said when he was asked, Marks noted he’s not concerned that Durant will try this again next year if things don’t go his or the Nets’ way in 2022-23.

"Personally I don’t think that’s something we should be concerned with now," Marks said. "It’s about how we manage on a daily minute-by-minute basis. Do we communicate in practice? Kevin doesn’t want to be surprised, and neither do we. He knows there’s going to be ups and downs, but how do we combat the anxiety or the pitfalls of pro sports? As a collective unit, it’s how we manage those; hopefully there won’t be any surprises. He obviously took some time to think about it and came back and said, ‘Yeah, this is where I can lead my championship aspirations,’ and he has a legacy at stake, like we all do."

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