Ask Kevin Durant where the Nets’ season took a turn for the worse, his answer is likely similar to that of what Nets fans might say as well. Everything changed after Durant suffered an MCL sprain and missed 21 games from the middle of January to the beginning of March.
The story of what happened next is well known to just about every basketball fan in the tri-state. And now the Nets are trying to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in with just four games left in the season.
“To be honest I feel like our season was derailed by my injury,” Durant said following practice on Monday in downtown Brooklyn. “Like I’m not looking at it like we just not a good basketball team. Just like wasn’t a lot of continuity with me and Kyrie out the lineup. That’s just what it is. When we all on the floor together I like what we got.”
Down to the final week of the regular season, Brooklyn is destined to have to go through the play-in round after still struggling to find that continuity with Durant and Irving now regularly in the lineup. The Nets’ offense has been led by Durant, with the cornerstone player putting up 55 on Saturday night in Atlanta, but the rest of the lineup hasn’t been as explosive at times and the defense has cost them games.
Even Kyrie Irving has struggled since returning to full-time status.
The Nets will need that to change over the final week of the season with the play-in looming next week. Right now the Nets are set to play the Charlotte Hornets in the ninth seed versus 10th seed matchup, but Durant said it didn’t matter who they played.
“Who cares,” Durant responded when asked about it. “Whoever we play we play. I don’t care who we play. I don’t care we in the play-in. Let’s just tip the ball up. See what happens. That’s all you can control. It’s too stressful thinking about or trying to dodge a team, lining up. Let’s just play the game and we’ll see what happens.”
Even with the chaos that has gone on this season, the Nets are still viewed as a team that could make noise in the postseason. Brooklyn still has the third-best odds to capture an NBA title this year according to DraftKings.
But for those odds to become a reality it will take a lot from the Nets. Durant, for starters, will need to continue to drive the offensive, while Irving will need to break his shooting slump in the final four games of the year. After that, the Defense will need to stop sending opponents to the line as much as they have.
For Durant, the biggest thing for the nets will be their mindset.
“Just focus on the next game that’s in front of us,” he said. “I’ve been saying this the whole year, each day matters. Like the next day matters. What we got in front of us. We can talk about expectations and where you see this team on paper, I always said this, but everyday matters. We want to be a champion every second that you step on the floor, not just when we play a good team or playoffs coming up.
“I think being a champion is in the habits and the work ethic, the care that you have for the game.”