The playoff hopes of a city, at the very least a borough, are resting on the back of Kevin Durant. Sure, the Nets superstar isn’t buying into the hyperbole, but he was ecstatic to finally get back on the court and help his team dig out of the hole they are currently in.
The Nets had entered Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat three games back of the Toronto Raptors for the Seventh seed in the East. Brooklyn has watched its season take an unexpected turn after Durant was injured on Jan. 15 and the Nets went 5-16 in the 21 games that followed without him on the court.
Durant was well aware of the pressure that awaited his return to action.
“I don’t look at myself as that, as a savior,” Durant told reporters after Thursday’s shootaround in Brooklyn, according to ESPN. “But I know what I can do and how much I can help this team and what we’re missing as a group, but I’m not trying to go out there and win a game by myself tonight or make it all about me. I just try to go out there and help and be a good teammate and do what I do. I know what I bring to the table and try to do it to the best of my abilities.”
Durant has been sorely missed in just about every aspect of the Nets’ game since he was injured and that was compounded by the constant roster flux that Brooklyn went through as well. Kyrie Irving was in and out of the lineup due to New York City vaccine mandates that prevented him from playing home games and James Harden eventually forced his way out of Brooklyn via a trade at the deadline.
It’s still unclear when or if Irving will be able to play in Brooklyn this year, with New York City Mayor Eric Adams holding a firm line on the private-sector mandates that his predecessor put in place. And Ben Simmons has hit some speed bumps in his recondition since arriving in Brooklyn.
All of that occurred as the Nets dropped to eighth in the East and hold a 32-31 record prior to their meeting with Miami. Durant has had to watch all of that play out while he’s gone through his recovery.
The superstar said that it had “sucked” not being able to contribute or be on the floor with his teammates through such a difficult stretch, but he has been present with the team. It hasn’t been uncommon in recent weeks for him to be on the bench or talking to his teammates during timeouts.
“It was difficult because I couldn’t calm some of the noise down with my play,” Durant said. “That’s usually the best remedy for stuff like that. So it was eating at me that I couldn’t go out there and perform to take some pressure off the guys and the organization, but I’m proud of how everybody just kept pushing and kept coming to work every day, kept grinding.”
KD: “I feel energized.”
He’s looking forward to getting back on the floor and giving his team a boost. “I know what I can do and how I can help this team.” pic.twitter.com/EBcEjMG513
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 3, 2022
Still, the Nets are in a tough spot, even with their cornerstone player finally back and their schedule won’t be a cakewalk.
The Nets have to face Boston and Philadelphia over their next three games. They’ll then have Dallas, Utah, Memphis and Miami again later in the month to look forward to.
That hasn’t given Durant any hesitation in his belief that the Nets can work themselves out of the predicament they’ve put themselves in.
“We know what the standings are,” he said. “We know everybody’s telling us every day how far we’re dropping and where we may end up, constantly telling us the situation we’re in. But we understand that and know that each day is important so we’re focused on tonight and just keep plugging away.”