When Kevin Durant makes his long-awaited return to action against the Heat in front of the Barclays Center faithful, he will do so with a Nets team completely different than the one that was second place in the East when he went down with an injury.
Since spraining his knee in January, the Nets went from 27-15 to losing 11 straight games and struggling to stay in the play-in tournament with a 32-31 record. The teams’ makeup has also changed following the Nets’ blockbuster move to trade James Harden to Philly for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond.
The play status of Kyrie Irving is also up in the air after New York lifted its masking mandate, although nothing has changed for private businesses’ mask mandates. With 19 games left in the regular season, there’s no better than the present for Brooklyn to make a move up the standings and reestablish themselves as the championship contender many around the League expected them to be.
Just don’t expect KD to fall into the narrative that he will be the main reason why that happens.
KD: "I don't look at myself as that, as a savior. 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."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 3, 2022
Durant has averaged 29.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. His return will boost a squad that has missed his production as the featured weapon of the Nets’ offense. Easy Money Sniper doesn’t need to consider himself the savior of the Nets’ season, but he has been sorely missed not just from an offensive standpoint but with his leadership as well.
Heading into their matchup with Miami on Thursday, the Nets will look to earn just their second win out of the All-Star break and prevent a three-game losing streak after losing to the Raptors in back-to-back contests. The weight of that will fall on Durant, Curry, and Patty Mills since Irving is still prohibited from playing home games.