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How prioritzing performance gives Nets a subtle but very real advantage

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According to Ric Bucher, Kevin Durant is not happy with the medical care he got in Golden State.

“What I’ve heard, through various places, is that he’s not really happy with how things went down because of the injury,” Bleacher Report and Radio.com Sports’ Ric Bucher said on “Big Time Basketball,” talking about his Achilles rupture. “There’s an element of, ‘Was I misled as far as injuring myself coming back and playing and having a catastrophic injury like this coming off a calf strain?’

“We don’t know, definitively, exactly what was said, how much was said, how much he was aware of that. But I can tell you that people in the KD camp, people are running for cover because they don’t want to be holding the bag on who led him astray.”

And might he, and others, be looking for a better standard of care? Could the Nets decision to prioritize performance be an advantage in their pursuit of the player who is, when healthy, the game’s best? As Brian Lewis, Marc Stein and Stefan Bondy have all written recently, Brooklyn’s combined medical/performance staff is seen as among the league’s best ... and it’s increasingly a big deal.

“In the Nets’ dream scenario, [Kyrie] Irving not only signs on but persuades his good friend Durant to join him and to entrust his rehabilitation to the considerable medical staff that the Nets have assembled,” wrote Stein in the Times.

Indeed, the Nets have assembled a big —and talented— staff to handle both aspects of keeping players healthy ... and in the case of older players, helping them to fend off Father Time. The performance team is there to “prehab,” in one Nets insider’s words and the medical team is there to assess and repair what’s broken ... or strained or sprained. It also helps that the Hospital for Special Surgery, generally seen as America’s, if not the world’s, top orthopedics hospital, is the team’s official hospital.

Jared Dudley, who swears by the Nets performance team, joked that there must be 30 staffers devoted to keeping players in tip-top shape, adding that when he strained his calf in the playoffs, he learned the Nets had a “calf guy” to get him back into game shape.

As Bondy notes, all of it is a big part of their pitch to free agents, not just Durant.

“Brooklyn’s pitch to free agents, according to sources, will include their market, their culture, their practice facility, their assets, their coaching staff, their committed owners, their player development and, perhaps most importantly, their medical and performance staff,” he wrote last week.

“In this era of load management and players prioritizing heath, the final part really resonates. Superstars desire a top flight medical staff and the freedom to have their own performance team be present with input.”

In the specific case of Durant, the presence of Dr. Martin O’Malley could be most reassuring, Lewis noted over the weekend. O’Malley not only repaired the damage done to his Achilles two weeks ago but also performed foot surgery on KD in 2015.

“What they can promise is among the best training and performance staffs in the NBA,” Lewis wrote. “And they can provide proximity to their orthopedic specialist, Dr. Martin O’Malley, who not only operated on Durant’s ruptured Achilles tendon earlier this month, but also performed surgery on his broken foot four years ago. That could be vital.”

Indeed, after Caris LeVert underwent his third and final foot surgery at Michigan three years ago, the future Net said Durant went out of his way to encourage him ... and praise O’Malley.

“He just said ‘Once Doc finishes with you, you’ll be like brand new,’” LeVert said at the NBA draft combine in May 2016. “He told me just to stay with the course, it’s a long process, but just stay with it, don’t get anxious.”