Kevin Durant Is Back And Looks Like He Never Left, But Are The Nets Running Out Of Time?

Kevin Durant was back in the Brooklyn Nets lineup on Thursday night for the first time since Jan. 15. The 7-foot sniper looked mostly like his old self scoring 31 points. But the Nets lost to the Miami Heat and fell to .500 for the first time since October 29th. With their MVP back, will the Nets have enough time to get it right for the play-in tournament and possible playoffs?

It’s crunch time. The Nets have 18 games remaining in the season and are in eighth place in the East. That’s the play in tournament. They are three games behind the Toronto Raptors and only one up on the Charlotte Hornets. As it stands now they would have to beat the Raptors on the road to advance to the playoffs.

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A road game would normally mean Kyrie Irving would join KD, and a presumably ready Ben Simmons. However Toronto has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all athletes entering the city, meaning Irving would be ineligible.

A healthy KD, Simmons and the rest of the Nets should be good enough to win that game and grab the No. 7 seed. If the seedings hold that would mean a first round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers.

There would be no drama in that series at all …

But the Nets need to build some level of chemistry before then. Simmons has to participate in enough high-intensity workouts pain free so that he can join the team. Plus, the NYC private sector mandates need to be lifted (and there is no timetable on that) in order for Irving to play in home games.

Are 18 games enough? The math on that is likely a no. But KD remains optimistic.

What can’t be understated is how throughout KD’s career he has returned to top form following an injury.

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In October of the 2014-15 season when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder KD won league MVP the season prior and looked poised to be the dominant force in the league with LeBron James. He suffered a Jones fracture and missed the majority of that season. He returned the next season and was All-NBA.

In the 2016-17 season his first with the Golden State Warriors he suffered an MCL sprain that looked like a season-ending injury. He missed 19 games and returned to lead the Warriors to a title, winning Finals MVP. He averaged 35.2 points, eight rebounds and five assists on .556/.474/.927 shooting splits, and outplayed LeBron.

In the 2019 NBA Finals he ruptured his Achilles tendon and it was assumed his career was over. He missed the entire next season. But last year he returned to All-NBA level performance, and while he was banged up a little during the season, he was healthy in the playoffs and put up a historic performance over two rounds.

The Nets likely won’t have the time to build the cohesiveness necessary to be a champion this season. But one thing we do know is KD will be at his absolute best, and if that’s the case there’s always a chance.

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