As Sean Marks told ESPN last month, things change when Kevin Durant takes the court at HSS Training Center.
“He goes out and takes a couple of set shots -- not jumpers -- and the whole gym stops,” Marks says. “You can hear a pin drop. That’s great for our guys, because they sense this guy is waiting in the wings. We’re not waiting for him, but man, it’s kind of a cool feeling to know he’s coming.”
Well, here’s what it looks like.
Need a Kevin Durant injury update? I don’t think we’ve seen him move this well yet pic.twitter.com/uf4XA9dbqt— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) November 6, 2019
As Winfield reported, Durant netted 15 mid-range shots in a row while practicing in front of Atkinson and the Nets’ performance staff. He used a variety of jab steps and crossovers while pulling up for set shots from his toes. Not jumpers, as Marks said, but a thing of beauty nonetheless, said Atkinson.
“I just like hanging out with him and watching that ball go in every time,” Atkinson said after practice. “Even form shooting. It’s amazing. It’s like he’s just such a, it’s a thing of beauty watching him shoot. It’s great having him out there, he’s out here the whole practice and obviously got some form shooting in.”
Atkinson spoke as well about how the team benefits from having two-time Finals MVP around, even if he isn’t playing.
“He gets in our coaches’ huddles, especially when it gets tough,” Atkinson said. “I think he picks his spots, when to say something. He’s pretty quiet, but when he has to say something he’ll step up in the film room or in a timeout. He’s just got a really good feel for that. I could see someone coming in and being loud and boisterous. He could be that guy. He has every right to be that guy with his knowledge, but he’s just struck the right chord, the right balance of interjecting himself.”
And he spoke of the chemistry between his two superstars.
“The great thing about Kyrie and Kevin, they’re all about basketball,” Atkinson said. “From my perspective, maybe I’m not attuned to the outside world as much and the drama — I don’t read enough — but in this environment they are two guys that are obsessed with the game. And I mean obsessed in the best sense.
No one, but no one, is saying anything other than what Marks said at Media Day, that “expectations” are he won’t play this year, or what KD himself told Stephen A. Smith last week, “No, I don’t plan on it.”
“I think what he said is the best thing – don’t expect him back,” Atkinson said of Durant’s comments. “That’s kind of where we are . . . I don’t want to give you any information that says, ‘Oh, he’s this far’ and I’m wrong.”
But what about his teammates, who have a front row seat on his progress. No way are they talking.
Spencer Dinwiddie would neither confirm nor deny Durant’s progress. “The FBI agent that is Sean Marks will show up at my crib,” he joked.
Dinwiddie, like Marks and like Atkinson said the players get a lot out of having him around: “I will say every time he’s around, it’s definitely great for us. We get to soak up knowledge and learn from him. Obviously, him and Kareem are the two best scorers of all time, so to be able to have a guy like him on the roster who’s still your age or close to it, it’s just cool to be around.”
Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan’s right ankle sprain doesn’t appear that severe. Atkinson said he’s day to day. Does that mean he’ll be back during the five-game road trip where the Nets play every other day. No one will predict. Atkinson did say that rookie Nicolas Claxton, the nearly 7-footer with point forward skills, likely seen some time sooner or later.
“I think we can go some different ways with that backup position,” Atkinson said. “I think Nic Claxton, he’s gonna have to play some, depending on how long DeAndre’s out. I think Nic, he understands what we’re doing. We love his talent. At some point, he’ll get a shot.”
Jarrett Allen was in Claxton’s position two seasons ago as “the rookie coming in, the young guy, whole world ahead of him,” he said. “He’s gonna come in, he’s gonna bring a lot of energy, he’s gonna play hard and get himself ready for the future.”
Also on hand was Henry Ellenson, the three-year vet who’s one of the Nets two-way players. Both bigs will travel to Portland for Brooklyn’s game Friday rather than to Fort Wayne for Long Island’s game Saturday. (So will Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Chris Milholen reports).
In fact, it looks like the Nets will wait to make a decision on whether to replace Wilson Chandler who’s suspended for the first third of the season. Might be better to see what the two young bigs —Claxton is 20, Ellenson 22— can do.
- Kevin Durant’s shot is looking pretty good, but he’s still a long way off - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant keeping a presence with Nets during rehab for Achilles injury - Anthony Rieber - Newsday
- Kevin Durant’s sideline presence making big Nets difference - Peter Botte - New York Post
- Kevin Durant not anticipating 2019-20 return to Nets, but making strides in Achilles recovery - Garrett Stepien - SNY