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Kevin Durant joins other NBA stars in ‘united front’ to push for a return-to-play

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Amid reports of rising optimism for a return-to-play, Kevin Durant has reportedly joined a group of the NBA’s biggest stars who’ve “established a united front” to push the reopening forward. Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports broke the story of the Monday conference call that enlisted eight superstars, including KD, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Putting aside (for the moment) whether KD wants to play if play returns, the commitment represented yet another step in the long road back. Chris Paul, president of the players union, arranged the call, Haynes reported.

Also, ESPN reported that union reps had been asked to informally poll their teammates on whether they want to play ... or whether health concerns will give them pause, particularly with the league likely to conduct fan-less games in a single location ... and in isolation.

Early Wednesday morning, AP’s Tim Reynolds reported that the poll had already been completed and there was “‘overwhelming’ support for any plan that has this season resuming in a safe way amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

The exact results of the poll were unknown, Reynolds added, noting as well that “the methodology behind the poll — including how many players participated — was unclear.”

One player had told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that he anticipated that 70 percent of the players would vote for a return.

“But 30 percent is a big number,” the player told Turner. “And what do you say to somebody who says, ‘You know what, I just don’t feel safe’? It’s hard to argue that. But there are reasons to argue that because I know the NBA would be one of the safest places to be at. That thing would be tight, clean, protocol, all that.”

In another development, Adam Silver spoke with the league’s Board of Governors via conference call about issues surrounding a return, including plans for a “campus environment” where teams can feel comfortable ... and where differences among the 22 NBA states plus Ontario and the District of Columbia wouldn’t matter.

The biggest issue remains safety for players and staff, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

Silver told those on the call that if a positive test would “shut us down, we probably shouldn’t go down this path.”

How many positive tests would be too many remains a question, and is one of many that the NBA, the NBPA and medical experts must come to terms with before the league and union can greenlight a resumption of play.

Reports have circulated that the NBA would need to secure 15,000 tests to meet its goal of testing players —and support staff— on a daily basis. Mavs owner Mark Cuban told The Athletic that he didn’t expect that to be a problem.

Woj also reported that the league has yet to decide on the format of a return-to-play, whether any regular season games would be played or whether the league would jump directly to a playoff performance.

Still, Woj wrote, the league’s owners left the conference call “increasingly positive about the league’s momentum.”

How soon might the league make a decision? Shams Charania reported late Tuesday that Silver wants to move quickly.

As for a KD return, his agent and manager Rich Kleiman once again dissed the idea.

Kleiman made it clear that he doesn’t see Durant returning until next season — whenever that might be.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but no,” Kleiman told The Athletic on Monday. “It’s unrealistic. I think anyone should realize that, when you’re looking at just the circumstances and just what he’s coming back from.”