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Kevin Durant: ‘I want to play at an elite level late in the season and playoffs’

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Kevin Durant returned and looked very good in the Nets preseason win Sunday against the Washington Wizards. He wants to do better.

Heading into the game, Durant admitted he was nervous returning to the court after the 552-day absence. He had been visualizing his Nets debut for a long time.

“I was anxious, nervous,” Durant said following the 119-114 win. “I visualized this moment for so long. Nine, ten 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.”

As Steve Nash noted after the game, it was “beautiful” to see KD return from a devastating Achilles injury and be back on the NBA hardwood.

“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 said. “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.”

Take it from Landry Shamet. To the 23-year-old, Durant’s Nets debut showed he is still a top player in this league, even if he isn’t one-hundred percent.

“Whatever percentage of Kevin Durant you saw tonight is better than a lot of guys in the NBA,” Shamet said.

Although looking great in the eyes of everyone else, the scary part is that he did not think he played after recording 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks 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.”

Durant said he wants to play at the highest level of basketball. Although an impressive first outing, the 10-time All-Star is looking to unleash his finest come late season and playoffs.

“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.”)

One of those “solid” moments came on the defensive end and arguably was his most important play of the game for the Nets star. Durant drew a hard charge on Rui Hachimura, who forcefully extended his right arm and shoved Durant to the ground on a drive to the basket.

The 32-year-old hopped right up but that didn’t hold back his teammates from experiencing a quick case of nerves.

“I thought he was going to have a hole in his chest,” Shamet joked. “I was hoping he flopped a little bit but I don’t know. He must have got him pretty good.”

Following the win, Durant joked about the play and says it gave him confidence.

“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.”

Now with a preseason game under his belt, Durant told the media he has been receiving calls, texts, and messages about how he’s feeling. He feels like one of the guys again.

“I can’t wait ‘til 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.”