The Brooklyn Nets, winners of six straight games heading into Tuesday, are surging. The remarkable part? They’re doing it without their best player.
Kevin Durant has now missed five straight games — including Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings — due to a mild left hamstring injury that he suffered against the Golden State Warriors on February 13. All told, the 11-time All-Star has missed eight of the Nets’ last nine games; earlier in February, he was absent for three games due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
The good news for the Nets is Durant appears to be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Steve Nash Gives Encouraging Update on Durant
“Yeah, I do,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said when asked if expects to get the 32-year-old Durant back before the All-Star break, via SNY. “But again, we’re just trying to monitor and be cautious. We definitely have kind of slowed things down in that respect. Not putting any pressure on him, not trying to rush him back in any capacity and just make sure that we give him the right amount of time to be more than healed, to be strong and conditioned to come back into the team. So we’re monitoring it and we’re not in a rush, but I don’t think he’ll be out until the All-Star break.”
The All-Star Game is set for March 7 in Atlanta. The Nets have five games before then, including their game Tuesday against the Kings.
Nash’s comments Tuesday represented the first time he’s given a timetable on Durant’s injury. On Monday, his update on Durant was also positive, but without elaboration on when he expects him back.
“I think he’s progressing every day and it’s really positive,” Nash said Monday, via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. “But I couldn’t tell you when his return is, but reiterate that we’re all optimistic and positive that he’s improving at a rapid rate and will be back soon.”
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Signs of Progress for Durant
Before the Nets’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, the 6-foot-10 Durant was on the practice floor for his first pregame warmup since suffering his hamstring injury, per Winfield.
In an article for the New York Daily News, Winfield wrote that Durant was near-perfect on his mid-range shots during his workout, though the shots with added distance were a bit short.
Kevin Durant participated in pregame warmups today. He did not before the Suns or Lakers games. Today marks the 4th straight game Durant has missed with a left hamstring strain.
Steve Nash said Durant is “improving at a rapid rate and will be back soon.” pic.twitter.com/gJsmOm6MXS
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) February 22, 2021
Nets Thriving, Even Without Their Best Player
In Durant’s absence, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the other two members of Brooklyn’s Big Three, have been superb in leading the Nets. Irving is averaging 28.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists over the Nets’ six-game winning streak (he missed one game over that span due to lower-back soreness), and Harden has thrust himself into the MVP discussion with 27.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 10.7 assists in those six games.
Durant, meanwhile, has been an MVP candidate all season. He’s averaging 29 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. As the Eastern Conference’s leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, he was named its team captain. Irving and Harden also are headed to Atlanta for the All-Star Game; Irving was voted in as a starter, and Harden was named a reserve, according to a report by The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Tuesday.
Sources: 2021 NBA All-Star reserves:
West: Chris Paul, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis
East: James Harden, Julius Randle, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, Ben Simmons, Nikola Vucevic
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 23, 2021