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Would a Kevin Durant return this year spur NBA ratings?

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Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Elizabeth Swinton, writing for Sports Illustrated, suggests it’s the absence of some big names this season that’s hurting the NBA’s TV ratings, which on a national scale are down 15 percent. And she specifically points to Kevin Durant’s lost season.

Swinton writes...

Injuries have impacted the league in the lull, from No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson’s missing over three months with meniscus surgery to Klay Thompson’s ACL recovery. The same can be said of Stephen Curry, who has missed the majority of this season with a broken wrist. While he is due to return in March, the NBA has missed the spark Curry adds to a court, and his shooting spectacle is difficult to match.

Atop the list, Durant’s absence may make the largest difference.

Why? In large part, it’s his play, but it’s also his personality. As Robin Lundberg notes in an accompanying video, it’s not just what the NBA misses on the court with KD, it’s what it misses off the court.

Lundberg calls the wave of injuries to Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Zion Williamson a “load management” issue.

“And when it comes to Durant, it’s a double whammy. Not only are the Warriors irrelevant, the hype for his new team in Brooklyn can’t be at its peak until he and Kyrie are back. KD is a superstar who brings attention to him.

“His online activity is talked about almost as much as what’s going on on the court which is why his return would be such a boon to the sport.”

That’s why he says video of Durant working out gets fans excited.

And what’s the latest? Well, after the video of him working out emerged earlier this week, Durant’s manager Rick Kleiman has been peppered with questions about KD returning. Kleinman hasn’t definitively said no. Two days ago, he told HOT97 that Durant’s return is not a question for now.

“It’s not like procrastinating. It’s like why have a conversation now that we just don’t have to have? Let him lock in on what he does everyday. The dude doesn’t miss a rep. He doesn’t miss a rep.”

Then Thursday, Kleiman added to the mystery, talking to Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney on CBS Sports. All he would say is that the “expectation” is Durant won’t play, mimicking what Sean Marks said at the beginning of the season about “expectations.”

“My expectation is that he won’t play (this season).

“To be real, those conversations will have to happen down the road... but I’m not going to try to get in the middle in the rehab process and try to hone in on when that’s happening”

So we wait.