- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2019

Toronto won the NBA championship, but that’s nothing compared to what Brooklyn just pulled off. Someone needs to call the Guinness Book of Records.

In what must have been the fastest negotiations in pro sports history, the Nets acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as soon as the clock struck 6 p.m. Sunday, when teams were given the all-clear to strike deals with free agents. Durant’s and Irving’s reported four-year contracts fell into place so quickly, the ink was still wet at 6:01 p.m.

If we didn’t know better, we’d think the parties had worked out the details prior to the negotiation period. But that’s not possible (wink-wink). By league rules, teams are permitted to communicate with free agents and their representatives beginning at 6 p.m. on June 29 — solely for the purpose of scheduling a meeting to take place at or after 6 p.m. on June 30.

NBA teams often set speed records when free agency begins, and Brooklyn wasn’t the only example Sunday. In a flash, Kemba Walker was donning Celtics green, J.J. Redick was looking at property in New Orleans and Terry Rozier was taking Walker’s place in Charlotte.

A number of free agents quickly re-signed with their current teams, including Khris Middleton (Milwaukee), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando) and Harrison Barnes (Sacramento). But maybe they shouldn’t count here. You can’t tamper with your own player, right?

In any case, more than 40 deals were agreed to before midnight, emphasis on “agreed to.” Contracts cannot be finalized until July 6, the same date that Anthony Davis officially becomes a Laker and several rookies can swap the hats they were handed on draft night for hats from their actual teams.

Keeping up can be difficult. Brooklyn drafted Nickeil Alexander-Walker with the 17th pick. NBA.com notes that the “Nets are currently in discussions to trade this pick to the Hawks, who reportedly will trade the pick to the Pelicans.”

Reportedly? Does the league office rely on Adrian Wojnarowski for its info like everyone else?

Frankly, the NBA makes matters much more complicated than necessary. There’s no reason for a three-week lag between news that Davis was traded to the Lakers and a news conference with seeing Davis holding a Lakers jersey. There’s no reason to have draft picks pose in apparel from the team that selected them, knowing full well that the team has already traded them.

The only delay that makes any kind of sense is the free-agent moratorium, the five-day period between agreeing to contracts and signing contracts. It allows either side the opportunity to back out if buyer’s remorse sets in. (A strike against former Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld: He could’ve nixed the 2016 Ian Mahinmi deal after sleeping on it, but he went through with the signing anyway.)

As the free-agent frenzy slows down and smoke clears from the sign-and-trades, we’re left with an NBA landscape that’s a stark contrast to the past five seasons — and that’s with yet another bombshell waiting to be dropped.

The entire Eastern Conference is hoping that Kawhi Leonard picks Southern California over Toronto. Two years after LeBron James’ departure, the East would be wide-open again if Leonard spurns the Raptors. At least a half-dozen teams — particularly Milwaukee and Philadelphia — are poised to challenge the North.

Golden State’s fallen empire gives promise to several contenders who essentially conceded to the Western Conference for half of this decade. Portland, Utah, Denver, Houston and Oklahoma City are renewed for title runs while New Orleans sports No. 1 pick Zion Williamson and a deep roster.

There has been talk among some NBA observers that the flurry of free-agent movement — in its anticipation and its actualization — is detrimental for the league. They say it overshadows the games and creates instability for franchises.

I say it merely represents where we are as a society, going hand-in-hand with our affinity for fantasy leagues, instant gratification and channel surfing. Players are more willing to change teams for a variety of reasons, even at the expense of their bank account or title chances.

Like Boston fans before them, Brooklyn fans are excited to welcome Irving. Jimmy Butler might’ve worn out his welcome in Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia, but he’s beloved as he starts in Miami. Milwaukee fans will be crushed if the Bucks don’t retain Giannis Antetokounmpo when he’s eligible for free agency in two years, but at least they get to enjoy him before it’s someone else’s turn.

Lusting for another team’s superstars has become common practice for some franchises (see: New York Knicks). Sometimes the feeling is mutual (except when the Knicks are involved).

As we learned yet again on Sunday, consummation between the pursuer and the pursued can occur in no time flat.

Hope it was good for all parties.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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