NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant says he’ll play against the Miami Heat on Thursday after missing a month and a half with a sprained left MCL.
Durant hasn’t played since being injured in the Nets’ Jan. 15 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and will provide a huge boost to a team that went 5-16 in his absence. .
“I feel full of energy,” Durant said after Thursday’s shooting. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play. It sucks to be away and not to be with the team. I felt bad that I couldn’t help and contribute and try to change some things for us. But have an opportunity tonight and hopefully moving forward where I can inject what I’m doing into this team and hopefully it will give good results.”
Without Durant on the floor, coupled with James Harden’s trade and Kyrie Irving’s periodic absences, the Nets slipped to 32-31 and eighth in the Eastern Conference. Ben Simmons, who came from the Sixers in the Harden trade, has yet to play as he continues to struggle with a back problem. Irving is still out of home games due to New York City’s vaccination mandate. Durant was asked if he felt more pressure given the Nets’ precarious position in the standings.
“I don’t see myself as that, as a savior,” Durant said. “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 on my own this night or do anything for me. I just try to go out there and help out and be a good teammate and do what I do. I know what I bring to the table and I try to do it to the best of my ability.
It was a big drop for a team that was at or near the top of the standings when Durant played as a strong MVP candidate before the knee injury.
“It was tough because I couldn’t quiet some of the noise with my game,” he said, watching the Nets slide in his absence. “It’s usually the best medicine for stuff like that. So it was eating away at me that I couldn’t go out there and play to relieve the guys and the organization, but I’m proud of how everyone carried on. to push and kept coming to work every day, kept working We know how crazy this job is – anything can happen so we all need to be prepared and come to work every day as professionals, and I like the way we’ve done that.
Durant said “there’s nothing set in stone” regarding any potential minute restrictions on Thursday, but he expects to stay in touch with the Nets coaching staff throughout the game. match as they monitor his return.
Durant returned to practice right after the All-Star break and has been around the team, and on the bench, a lot more for the past two weeks. His availability will give the struggling group an emotional lift with 19 regular season games remaining.
“I didn’t want to play through the pain,” Durant said. “I still had knee pain throughout the losing streak. And obviously I know I can go out there and help, but I didn’t want to hurt myself even more trying to go again. further and to be a superhero, just But I’m glad I was able to have time to work on my body, and the training staff did a great job working with me every day, and now I’m here and I just see where I am after this game and keep building from here.”
Durant remains confident his team can still get back on track before the playoffs start next month.
“It’s just taking it one day at a time,” Durant said. “I can be confident all I want, if we don’t go out there and really put the work in place then nothing will happen. So I can talk about our confidence and how things introduce themselves and give you slogans what our team maybe; I can introduce my team to you right now, but we have to go there and participate in rehearsals, training and games in order to really see who we are and what works best for us…
“We are getting closer. There are less than 20 games left in the season, but this is the situation we find ourselves in, these are the circumstances we find ourselves in. So what? We have to go there and understand.”
Durant last spoke before a loss to the Heat on Feb. 12, and he knows what the narrative is surrounding his team right now, as they’ve struggled to put together wins without him.
“We know the standings,” Durant said. “We know everyone tells us every day how low we go and where we might end up, constantly telling us the situation we’re in. But we understand that and know that every day is important, so we’re focusing on tonight and keep tuning in.”
As the Nets try to push further, Durant has been pleased with what he has seen from Simmons in the individual work he has been able to watch and the conversations they have had. It remains unclear when Simmons, who has not yet been cleared to practice and is dealing with an earlier issue, will make his debut for the Nets.
“He seems thrilled to be playing,” Durant said. “Just be patient with his health, watch him every day and see where he can go from here. When the guys are injured their situation is hard to assess but he walks around excited and part of the team. every day, and once he’s ready to play, we’ll welcome him with open arms.”