Everyone knew what the first question would be when the Nets announced that Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson would be available to talk with the media in Las Vegas Tuesday.
When’s Kevin Durant coming back? Will he be out the year?
Bottom line: Nets aren’t saying and won’t comment on the possibility that he might miss the season.
“He will be evaluated with the performance team and so forth,” said Marks. “A timeline will be given in due time, but as of now, we’re certainly not going to comment on when or if and make any sort of hypotheticals. It’s too early.”
Marks admitted the injury did give the Nets pause.
“For it to happen in that moment, at that time, irrespective of free agency, obviously I’d be lying if I said, ‘oh, it didn’t bother us at all’, or ‘we weren’t at all taken’,” Marks said. “Then we had to dig in and say, OK, what does that look like? How does that work with our franchise? How does that fit with the dynamic?”
Kenny Atkinson agreed.
“We were texting right away. You know, ‘Geez, this could change things.’ Then we took a couple of deep breaths and obviously got more information and that made the decision easier,” Atkinson said Tuesday in his first comments since the Durant sign-and-trade.”
So the Nets went into research mode and at the end of the process felt comfortable enough. They saw it as an acceptable risk.
“We wouldn’t be having this press conference if that was the case,” Marks said with a laugh. “With those guys, they’re at a different level. They know. … I’m not going to sit here and tell them, ‘Well, we’d like to discuss a contract with you.’ We know what we’re getting into.”
And of course, Durant’s surgeon, Dr. Martin O’Malley, is the Nets foot/ankle specialist.
“The first time we got together was [Monday], to be quite frank. Our doctors and performance team, we met with Kevin and conducted a full evaluation. They got their hands on him and explained to him: This is what the program looks like,” Marks said. “I can’t speak for Kevin. I assume there’s a level of comfort knowing Dr. O’Malley is in New York.”
Marks reluctance to rule out a return is different than what KD’s old coach had said after surgery to repair the rupture. Steve Kerr said definitively he’d be out for all of next season. Could things have changed or was Kerr premature? As the old saw goes, only time will tell.
Of course, even the prospect of a possible return would change perceptions about the Nets season. He might, just might, be a factor in the playoff hunt.
Historically, there’s not a lot of data to support the prospect of a full return, but every injury is different, as is every surgery and rehab ... and the Nets have great faith in their medical/performance team.
There are gradations in severity, experts say, with the range for recovery and rehab somewhere between seven and a half months and a year. A seven and a half month layoff would put KD back on the floor around the middle of the season. Of course, the Nets’ medical and performance teams are notoriously conservative ... and the image of Durant collapsing on the court in the Finals will linger in everyone’s mind.
Marks also said Durant had informed him the same way he informed the basketball world, on his company’s Instagram account!
“Well, yeah. The Instagram post that he put up, we were all sitting in the office. We all got that in real time with you guys. We weren’t even sure if we were getting a meeting that night or if it was going to be a telephone conversation,” said Marks, adding he hadn’t even spoken with Durant’s business partner Rich Kleiman at that point.
Not long after, KD joined the team at the HSS Training Center for a celebratory toast and conversations about his game and the Nets.
“Kenny talked about how he wants to use him and how he’d play and the style of play. We both discussed the culture, the makeup of the team,” Marks said. “It was pretty evident in terms of his excitement and the look on his face and the expressions that he had come to a decision pretty quickly.”
Did it surprise him that players of Durant and Irving’s stature would chose the Nets, even without a meeting with the bosses?
“These players are talking all the time,” Marks said. “Our guys are talking, who knows what’s going on behind closed doors. And we let them have their space; I mean, that’s the players’ sanctuary.
It may all strain credulity, but a lot of feints and winks and nods before the opening of free agency on June 30 can be handled indirectly through agents or in player-to-player exchanges. The Nets have two players friendly with the superstars.
Chris Mannix of SI reported earlier Tuesday that the Nets were aware Spencer Dinwiddie, who had befriended Kyrie Irving last summer at Harvard, was talking to Irving about the wonders of Brooklyn, city and team.
“Everyone knew Spencer was talking to him,” a source “with direct knowledge” of the Nets told Mannix. “The coaching staff knew it. The front office knew it. It wasn’t like they were asking him all the time, ‘What’s going on?’ But they knew his relationship with Kyrie.”
Caris LeVert told Tom Dowd of the Nets official site that he fielded a few calls from his friend Durant asking about the city and the organization, but he didn’t put on any recruiting push himself.
“I really didn’t, honestly,” said LeVert. “We have a good friendship, but I never really pressured him about it or that type of stuff. When he got hurt I reached out, kind of made sure he was OK and everything like that. But obviously he knows that he’s a great player, he knows that I would love to play with him. But I kind of left him alone with that stuff.”
It couldn’t have hurt that KD knew another friend of his, Taurean Prince, was joining the Nets in a trade.
Meanwhile, Atkinson talked about how he might integrate DeAndre Jordan into the Nets post game, when Jarrett Allen has been the starter.
But he said after speaking with Jordan - who hasn’t come off the bench in a game since 2011 - the vet told him he’ll do whatever is needed for Nets to win.
“I don’t know what it looked like for him from a motivation standpoint,” said Atkinson, apparently referring to his half season on the Knicks’ bench. “I do think with the talent we brought in. I do think there will be a heightened sense of motivation on his part.”
Finally, Atkinson and Marks spoke as well about Kyrie Irving’s fit with the Nets ... and the controversy he left behind in Boston, where many blamed him for the team’s disappointing season.
“Whether it’s Kyrie or DeAndre Jordan or anybody, we don’t pre-judge from other situations,” Atkinson said. “We have our intel, we do our due-diligence, but we don’t pre-judge. I think the strategy is how can we fit this player the best possible way into our culture. That’s all of our jobs. We do it as a group. We do it collaboratively. I feel like our culture is strong enough no matter what type of player we bring in.”
Here’s some highlights from the press conference...
"I use the word 'humbled' when guys of that caliber choose to play with us." pic.twitter.com/5a6J7C7KyO— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) July 10, 2019
The Nets haven’t set a press conference to introduce their new players but expect something next week after Summer League ends and everyone is back in New York. There’ll be more details then.
- Sudden chance Kevin Durant could return this season - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets GM: I found out Kevin Durant signed when you did - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Kevin Durant slip up is recipe for disaster - Mike Vaccaro - New York Post
- Nets open up about Kevin Durant’s Instagram announcement, injury, and expectations moving forward - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Kenny Atkinson’s plan for Kyrie Irving: ‘Give him the ball’ - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Atkinson’s challenge: Finding fit for Kyrie, Jordan - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets GM Sean Marks: Kevin Durant made decision before meeting us - Ian Begley - SNY
- GM: Expectations ‘growing’ for talent-laden Nets - Tim Bontemps - ESPN
- Tamper, Tamper: It’s time for the NBA to get rid of its unenforceable tampering rules - David Aldridge - The Athletic NBA