Give Kyrie Irving this much credit. The man is not afraid to go after what he wants, regardless of who or what it costs.
On Friday, six days before what was already widely expected to be a chaotic NBA trade deadline, the mercurial Brooklyn Nets point guard let his team know he wants out.
In a report confirmed by CBS Sports, the Irivng saga in Brooklyn has careened toward the star player telling his team, which currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, that they either trade him between now and Thursday's deadline or lose him this summer, when the team would get nothing in return as he'll be an unrestricted free agent.
Shorthand: You have no choice, Brooklyn. Move me to a team of my choosing. Now.
This is a brutal blow to Brooklyn for so many reasons. It's hard to know, in this moment, how Kevin Durant will react to this news, and whether he'll blame Irving or the organization for the fallout that's going to follow. It's hard to see how the Nets -- which until Kyrie's Friday afternoon ultimatum still saw themselves as true contenders -- compete going forward. And it's difficult to see any kind of return that has a shot of getting this team back on the right track.
This isn't only about trading Kyrie or keeping Kyrie. It's also about how to avoid the next demand for an exit, the one that would likely come from Durant.
One of the most likely suitors is the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that seems best positioned to land Irving. Russell Westbrook would have to come back in any trade, a move that likely generates little long- or short-term confidence for the Nets.
Westbrook has found a niche in L.A., but he's far from the difference maker he once was. And of course the relationship between Westbrook and Durant has been severely strained since they parted ways in Oklahoma City in 2016. If you're Durant, Westbrook's arrival could be as infuriating as Irving's departure.
But let's press on with the theory of a deal involving the Lakers. The Nets could seek a three-way trade to offload Westbrook elsewhere, but that makes a dicey dance even more cumbersome and difficult to execute.
Perhaps the Clippers make a move. The Mavericks, too, may be frantic enough to get involved. The Heat as well, but one league source familiar with that thinking doubted Miami would be willing to bring Irving after his episode with antisemitic content last fall. But whatever teams approach Brooklyn -- assuming the Nets bend to Irving's demand -- they must do so confident that Kyrie would re-up this summer.
That fact alone rules out a bevy of teams. Couple that with the clear disadvantage Brooklyn now finds itself in, and the price for Irving could be markedly lowered -- a great-talent-meets-damaged-goods-meets-short-demand scenario.
Several NBA league sources, processing the news as it unfolded, speculated that just one of the Lakers two highly-coveted future first-round draft picks (2027 and 2029) packaged with Westbrook could get a deal done, or some equivalent from that narrow list of teams will likely have execs talking with Nets through the weekend.
A pick or two. The players to make the books balance. A bidding war, in theory, could drive the price up, but that is far from certain. This is not Donovan Mitchell on the move.
Either way, this is an absolute mess for the Nets, and it's one they must own. They made their bed, and they will have at least a few more nights tossing and turning in it.
Yes, it's the era of player empowerment, and this was what Durant wanted: Kyrie, and all that comes with Kyrie. Including, now, this attempted last-minute, power-play disappearing act.
They let Durant, and Irving, influence so much, and this is where it has led them. But that was always likely to end badly, because most NBA stars make bad GMs. Heck, even most GMs make bad GMs.
The list of would-be teams for Kyrie is narrow. He must want to go there. They must have the space for his contract and the right pieces to send back to Brooklyn. The Nets must be willing to buckle and send him away, likely cratering their season, and perhaps Durant's desire to stick around as well.
But perhaps, as one NBA executive told CBS Sports, the list should be narrowed further, all the way down to zero: "I get the talent," he said, "but look at everything around this guy. He's just not worth it. Not anymore."