Forgive Nets fans if their nightmares look a lot like Danny Ainge.
The dream summer would be landing a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo, and that’s still believed to be a Nets goal. But Durant had surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles tendon Wednesday in New York and Ainge, the Celtics’ general manager, is working on an Anthony Davis trade he hopes will convince Irving to stay in Boston.
Durant’s injury and Davis’ ongoing New Orleans saga are going to dominate headlines over the next month. With more twists and turns than a pot of spaghetti, this free agency period is going to see Nets GM Sean Marks earn his keep.
While the Nets have inquired about acquiring Davis, actually landing him is unlikely. Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, cited the Lakers and Knicks as preferred destinations in a Sports Illustrated profile Wednesday. But that hasn’t kept Ainge from engaging New Orleans in trade talks, according to ESPN.
There is mutual interest between the Nets and Irving, who it was reported Wednesday will opt out of the last year of his Celtics deal. ESPN reported he even flew to California recently to recruit Davis, and parted ways with agent Jeff Wechsler to join up with ROC Nation Sports. ROC Nation was founded by former Nets part-owner Jay-Z, and Michael Yormark, brother of Nets CEO Brett Yormark, is its president and chief of branding and strategy.
The Celtics, however, reportedly believe trading for Davis could help convince Irving to stay in Boston. After Ainge’s history of heists — essentially getting three first-round picks and a swap of a fourth for an aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2013 — emotionally scarred Nets fans can be forgiven if they’re imagining the worst.
The Nets’ hopes of teaming Irving with Durant may have taken a hit when the Warriors star ruptured his Achilles tendon Monday. He flew to New York for surgery, which was performed Wednesday by Nets orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley, who operated on Durant’s right foot back in 2015.
The Nets paid a steep price for their trove of cap space — $68 million if they renounce D’Angelo Russell. They had to deal away two first-round picks to Atlanta to move Allen Crabbe’s $18.5 million expiring contract.
Marks has made precious few missteps, but most have been related to Crabbe. He first handed the wing a four-year, $75 million offer sheet in 2016, then wasted his mulligan by trading for Crabbe a year later. Getting out from under that contract has cost the Nets significant draft capital.
If the Nets don’t land Durant or Irving, it won’t guarantee a failed summer — it could just require a pivot.
In separate conversations with The Post, Russell said he wanted to be “a Net for life,” and added last week he understands there are “big fish that need to find a home” in free agency, and he knows he will have to wait. The 23-year-old has shown both loyalty and maturity.
The Nets would gladly keep Russell, and can because the All-Star is a restricted free agent. They would have $48 million even after his cap hold, more than enough to add a top forward like Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler or even restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis, and they have had interest in all three.
Harris — who has known Nets coach Kenny Atkinson since his high school days on Long Island — has interest in Brooklyn. When Butler demanded a trade from Minnesota, he reportedly had the Nets on his short list of destinations. And the injured Porzingis was on the Nets’ radar before the Knicks dealt him to Dallas.
The Nets could keep Russell, add any of those forwards and still have cap space left over to either add another free agent or use it in a lopsided deal. But for now they’re still eyeing Plan A — and keeping a close eye on Ainge.