The Nets have done their best to temper expectations surrounding Kevin Durant, who has yet to play a game for the team after suffering an Achilles injury in the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors. Durant himself said back in October that he didn’t plan to take the court even if Brooklyn earned a playoff berth, and the front office has consistently been on the same page as Durant.
But then a global pandemic threw a normal NBA schedule out the window and opened the door for a KD return later this summer. The 10-time All-Star is approaching the one-year mark since he underwent surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles, and every workout photo or video that hits social media increases excitement about the possibility of Durant suiting up in a playoff environment.
So … will he be ready to go if the 2019-20 season resumes in the near future?
“That’s a $110 million question,” Nets general manager Sean Marks told New Zealand’s Newshub. “In all seriousness, we’ve tried not to talk about his timeline a lot. He knows his body better than anybody. Our performance team and training staff have done a tremendous job getting him to this point, but I just don’t know how coming out of this pandemic will affect anybody, let alone Kevin.”
The fact that Marks didn’t completely rule out Durant is a small glimmer of hope, but he also made it clear the long-term health of Durant is the top priority. The two-time NBA Finals MVP signed a four-year, $164 million contract with the Nets last offseason, which includes a player option for the 2022-23 season.
“When you’ve got enough invested in a player like Kevin, we’re never going to push him to come back,” Marks said. “When the timing is right, he’ll be 100 percent when he gets on the court. I can tell you this, though — before the pandemic, he looked like Kevin Durant and that’s a good thing.”
During an appearance on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo” in March, Durant’s agent and manager Rich Kleiman was more direct, saying the idea of Durant being playing in June or July is “not very realistic.”
“It feels like [Durant playing in the 2019-20 season] clearly was not something that was in the cards prior to all this,” Kleiman said. “And now, I think just like the rest of the world, it’s hard to take anything more than day by day.”
Durant striding out to the court and attempting to lead the Nets past an Eastern Conference contender in the first round would be a terrific playoff storyline, but the Nets won’t put him in that position unless they are confident he is mentally and physically prepared to compete at that level.
Plus, there are plenty of hurdles the NBA needs to clear before it can consider holding games. The decision may be out of Durant’s hands.
At this point, the best course of action may be to continue assuming Durant is unavailable this season — even if it is way more fun to imagine him scoring all over the floor once again.