NBA

‘Nervous’ KD shines in Nets debut, return to court

  • Staff Writer
  • Joined ESPN in 2018
  • Appears regularly on ESPN Chicago 1000

NEW YORK — After a year and a half of Achilles rehabilitation, Kevin Durant returned to the basketball court for the first time on Sunday night for the Brooklyn Nets’ preseason game against the Washington Wizards.

“I was anxious, nervous,” Durant said afterward. “I visualized this moment for so long. Nine, 10 months of thinking about how it would be — this next phase of my career. I felt like I was chomping at the bit. Especially once COVID hit because I didn’t see a future — when the season was going to start in the future. I was going through it.”

“So, to go through this felt solid.”

The first points on the board in the Nets’ game came from an authoritative Durant dunk. He followed that up with an assist to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk.

The Nets went on to defeat the Wizards 119-114. Durant finished shooting 5-of-12 from the field with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 24 minutes of play.

“It felt great, you know, to be back in a routine and get back on the floor and feel like a player again,” Durant said. “I didn’t think I played great. I felt I had some solid moments.”

One of them was when he drew a charge on Washington’s Rui Hachimura early in the game.

“I definitely am feeling it right now,” Durant laughed. “It’s good to get back in the flow of things, and it definitely gives me some confidence. … It’s a good step, and I am trying to build on it.”

Before the game, first-year head coach Steve Nash said he hoped to play both Durant and Kyrie Irving “north of 20 minutes” in each of Brooklyn’s two preseason games. “When you have that type of injury,” Nash said of Durant after the game, “it is kind of remarkable he’s at the level he’s at.”

“It’s amazing,” Nash added. “This is an injury that very few people have conquered, so to speak. … It’s beautiful to see him back on the basketball court. I think the world missed him — I certainly did.”

Irving, who hasn’t played since February after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.

Irving, who played for 18 minutes, declined to speak to reporters after the game — continuing to break the league’s media rules despite being fined $25,000 on Friday for not speaking to reporters.

During the Nets’ weeklong training camp, Durant was not ready to make any proclamations about just how close he would look to his pre-Achilles injury self before actually playing in a game. After one preseason game, Durant said he still wasn’t ready to make any declarations.

“I want to play at the highest level of basketball — the highest intensity of basketball, and that’s not in the preseason,” Durant said. “I want to play at an elite level late into the season, playoffs. That’s when I want to play my best basketball. So I’m working toward that point.”

Since the game ended, Durant said he has been fielding texts and phone calls from friends, colleagues and acquaintances asking how he is feeling.

“I can’t wait till that’s over with so I can get back into the swing of things and just feel like one of the guys again,” Durant said. “So, it was a good first step.”

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