NEW YORK — Kevin Durant said he’d love to play in next month’s All-Star Game, but he won’t do anything to disrupt the healing process from his MCL sprain if it’s determined to be in his best interest to sit out until after the break.
“I want to play tomorrow if I can,” Durant said in his first comments since suffering the injury earlier this month. “So that’s what my sense of urgency is. Obviously, I don’t want to rush anything. I want to make sure I’m 100%. But yeah, I want to play. I want to be a part of all these events.
“I missed going back to Golden State, my previous home. So it’s been three years since I did that. You see all this stuff pass you by, so I want to participate in everything. I know I got to take my time and make sure I do my rehab and get back on the floor.”
The Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday announced that Durant would begin running and on-court activities and then would be reevaluated in another two weeks. He suffered his MCL sprain when Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler accidentally fell into his right knee on Jan. 8.
It is the third time in six years — and the second straight season — that Durant has suffered this exact injury, and all of them happened in the same manner: a player accidentally falling awkwardly into Durant’s leg. Still, Durant wondered if he could’ve done something differently to avoid being in that position, saying he watched all three plays to see if that was the case.
“That play, I think Seth [Curry] had guarded Jimmy in the post, and I should have just doubled, instead of emptying out of the paint slowly,” Durant said. “As I was emptying out, I was just standing there watching. I wasn’t even guarding my man. I wasn’t even hitting nobody. So I should have ran and doubled and got Seth off of Jimmy there, and maybe that wouldn’t have happened.”
That, though, doesn’t change the fact that it did happen, and that Durant and the Nets have to deal with the ramifications. Durant said he would not be attending the showdown between the streaking Nets and Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night (7:30 ET, ESPN). Since James Harden and Ben Simmons were swapped for one another, that makes it four games, including a preseason contest in October, without both teams being at full strength.
Durant said he has gotten into a good groove during his rehab sessions and that he didn’t want to get out of rhythm by going on the road to watch a game.
But while the Nets dropped four games with Durant out of the lineup before wins in Phoenix on Friday and Golden State on Sunday, Durant said there were too many variables to compare this season to last, when the Nets collapsed after he was hurt last January.
“I’m not even looking at it like that,” Durant said. “It’s a different year, a different time. It looks like the same situation, but it’s a different time. It’s hard to compare anything.
“It’s always tough when one of your main guys goes out the lineup and you’re trying to readjust on the fly like that. It’s going to take some time. It took us four games. Luckily, we still were 12, 13 games over .500, so it was cool to take that little stretch and learn so we could get better moving forward. It was tough to go through, but it was much needed to take those lumps.”
While it is obviously difficult for the Nets to be without their best player — especially after a stretch in which they went 19-3 to turn their season around after their ugly start — there is no one who is more frustrated by it than Durant himself. After three injury-plagued seasons to begin his time in Brooklyn — missing the entire 2019-20 season recovering from a torn Achilles, then playing a combined 90 games over the past two seasons — Durant had missed only one game this season until injuring the knee.
And, as a result of the timing of it, he not only missed another return game in San Francisco, but will also not be able to face LeBron James when he comes here later this month on his chase to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, could miss two matchups with Philadelphia and could also miss participating in another All-Star Game on Feb. 19.
“Yeah,” Durant said when asked if there was any sense of “Here we go again” to his latest injury absence. “But I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself.
“I was just like, s—, another year of not playing against my old teammates. Another year of, at that point, maybe missing the All-Star Game and not playing against LeBron James at home. Stuff like that that I look forward to. On top of playing every game, I just look forward to that stuff. But it’s part of basketball as well.
“Like I said, I could have put myself in a better position and not get injured. It’s my third time. Feeling great and a freak injury happens like this. … It is what it is.”
Meanwhile, the Nets’ focus in Philadelphia will — as usual — be on Simmons, who could be facing his former co-star Joel Embiid for the first time since the trade. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said he wants to see even more aggressiveness and assertiveness with the ball from Simmons going forward.
“I think he’s definitely taken some strides that way,” Vaughn said. “Now it’s [doing it for] more possessions. Let’s accomplish that. So more. More. We’re gonna continue to ask more of him.
“We talked about this today. Ben is very comfortable with the ball in his hands. … Now we’re asking him to do other things with the basketball, without the basketball, and I think he’s growing in those areas. So there’s some space that we’re asking him to grow, in that’s a little bit different, that we think we can make some money on.”