We will not see Kevin Durant on the floor for an NBA game any time soon. But Nets fans eager to see the franchise boosted from its five-year run in the doldrums—the team finished above .500 for the first time since 2013-14 last year—got at least a taste of Durant in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Durant was at Barclays Center in full uniform, wearing No. 7 and smiling for a team photoshoot. Two pictures were released by the team’s official Twitter account.
Of course, Durant is still in the midst of an arduous rehab after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, while playing with the Warriors. He only recently began moving without the walking boot that is required after an Achilles repair.
Don’t Expect to See Durant in Action This Year
There have been hints that Durant wants to return to the court this season, and typically, rehab from his type of injury requires between nine and 12 months before a player is to return to the floor. That does leave open a window in which Durant could play again.
His injury occurred on June 10. If nine months is the minimum he needs to get back on the floor, he could return around mid-March and be available for the stretch run and playoffs.
Don’t expect the Nets to go along with that timetable, though. Durant is the most important acquisition in franchise history, a 10-time All-Star and former MVP. The Nets will pay him $37 million to recover this year and will be on the hook for two years and $80 million after that. There’s a fourth year on his contract, too, worth $42 million. Durant has an opt-out clause on that.
With that level of financial commitment, the Nets are not eager to see Durant, who turns 31 at the end of the month, push his return to action too quickly. By way of comparison, Durant’s teammate with the Warriors last year, DeMarcus Cousins, returned to action 357 days after injuring his Achilles’ tendon. That’s a more typical timetable.
Durant and Irving Push Excitement and Expectations
Still, the excitement level is high in Brooklyn, even with Durant sidelined. The Nets added both Durant and star point guard Kyrie Irving to a roster that showed improvement last year, starting 8-18 but finishing 34-22 in their final 56 games. Irving will be the anchor, but team holdovers Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert will help with the ballhandling and scoring load.
The Nets also added forward Taurean Prince and center DeAndre Jordan to help with depth.
By the middle of July, Nets tickets had sold so briskly that the team was already ahead of its 2018-19 revenue from ticket sales.
Even without Durant, Brooklyn figures to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. But when Durant does return to the floor, the Nets could be a contender. That will be a while but at least the team now knows just how Durant looks in his new get-up.