Kevin Durant is ready to return to the shorthanded Nets, but Ben Simmons is week-to-week.
Nets star Kevin Durant is expected to return Thursday vs. Miami. He was not listed on injury report today.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 2, 2022
The lynchpin of this entire organization, the Nets have missed him for the last month and a half. Brooklyn is a paltry 5-16 since Durant went down with a knee injury in mid-January.
A healthy Durant will mask two of the major issues that have been plaguing these Nets — a lack of scoring punch at Barclays Center and overworked role players.
Prior to his knee injury, Durant was averaging 29.3 points per game, his highest-scoring season since 2013-14 and the third-highest of his career. Had he stayed healthy, this might have been one of the most productive seasons of his career.
With that said, Durant still has time to put the Nets back on track. Brooklyn is four games back in the loss column behind the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors for the sixth and seventh seed, respectively.
It won’t be easy to jump either team, but anything is possible with Durant.
Who is joining Durant?
It’s still unclear who Durant is going to be playing alongside. Kyrie Irving is technically allowed to go to Barclays Center as a fan, but he can’t play in games as an unvaccinated player because of New York City’s private-sector mandate. NYC Mayor Eric Adams doesn’t appear to be willing to budge on that.
Opposing players who are unvaccinated have been playing in Barclays all season long and they will continue to do so. But that’s a different story entirely.
Irving will at least be able to play in Philadelphia on March 10 when the Nets see James Harden for the first time since the blockbuster trade.
We don’t know when or if Ben Simmons is going to return. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that Simmons is considered week-to-week at this point. Ipso facto, a March 10 return date seems like a long shot.
Here’s Brian Windhorst’s full comments on Ben Simmons: Says here the Sixers (but maybe meant the Nets) had a full plan in place 6 days ago in case Kevin Durant and Simmons were both available on 3/10 BKN vs. PHI, but that plan has gone out the window. pic.twitter.com/42Vg2jDmpQ
— Kristian Winfield #NFTAllStar (@Krisplashed) March 2, 2022
Simmons is still listed as out for “return to competition reconditioning” but now he is dealing with a back issue too.
Although Durant’s return is going to do a lot for the Nets, the time for building chemistry is running out. Even worse, there’s a high probability that Brooklyn gets stuck in the play-in tournament.
Make no mistake about it, the Nets are still a bonafide championship contender. They have too much talent to completely count them out. But it’s getting late early in Brooklyn.