Kevin Durant’s right Achilles injury has thrown a wrench into free agency. But whether it’s Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris or Jimmy Butler, the Nets are confident they’ll land a star this summer.
“We have two spaces for two max deals, right? So, I mean they will definitely add some star and for sure will make the team bigger and better,” Nets forward Rodions Kurucs told The Post from the Basketball Without Borders Europe Camp in Latvia. “I hope he will teach us young guys some things what he has been through, and tell some stories we can learn from. That will definitely just be better for our team.”
The Nets got that space — $68 million if they renounce D’Angelo Russell, $46 million even with his cap hold — by forking over two first-round picks last week to clear Allen Crabbe’s contract off the books.
Considering Nets general manager Sean Marks’ meticulous nature, that level of investment strongly implies a promise from a star. Or two.
With almost no chance to get Kawhi Leonard, and Marks loath to gut his team in a deal for the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, the Nets’ optimal scenario was teaming Durant with Irving, who even reportedly flew to the Bay Area to recruit Durant to Brooklyn. But that may well be out the window.
Durant was in New York on Tuesday for evaluation by a specialist. While the Nets (and everybody else) likely would still hand him a four-year, $141 max deal even knowing he’ll miss next season, he could opt-in and remain with Golden State for another season as he rehabs.
Can Irving recruit another star to Brooklyn, and would he join the Nets without one? And would the Nets really try to make a Russell-Irving duo work, or dump Russell to chase Irving? It’s a call Kevin Boyle — who coached both in high school — said will be a tough one for the Nets.
“I don’t know how you let [Russell] go right now, unless your argument is we’ve got to move money for Kevin Durant,” Boyle said. “Even if you think Kyrie is better, it’s still hard because he’s so young, got such a long career and [they’re] still a bit away from where you want to go. … As an organization it’d be really hard to let him go.
“I understand you’ve got to get Durant if you can get him, I understand that. You might have an argument for Kyrie, because he’s Kyrie. But it’s still a hard one. … If you get one for the other it’s a tough call.Not that Kyrie’s not the best right now, but the age factor also becomes a business decision.”
The decision is time-sensitive, with free agency starting June 30.
Still, the feeling in both NBA circles and the Nets’ front office is that Brooklyn will land a star, be it Irving, Butler or Harris. Or maybe they even will reignite interest in ex-Knick Kristaps Porzingis, who joined his Latvian countryman Kurucs for Basketball Without Borders.
“Definitely,” recently departed Nets assistant Pablo Prigioni told The Post when asked if Brooklyn will land a top star. “Definitely that first part, like three years ago when Sean and Kenny [Atkinson] jumped into the organization, the team was in a different spot than it is right now in that time. Nobody wanted to go there.
“Now there’s a lot of good free agents that are considering the Nets as an option. So I hope they are lucky on that part and those free agents decide to choose Brooklyn.”
Kurucs told The Post he plans to play in the Las Vegas Summer League.