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Is there a softening on the prospects for a Kevin Durant return ... this season?

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets-Media Day Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview with a New Zealand website, Sean Marks would not rule out a possible return for Kevin Durant should play resume this summer, but the GM said the Nets would never push the superstar.

“That’s a $110 million question,” Marks said in a response to a Grant Chapman question about whether the suspension of play will offer the Nets and KD a “window of opportunity.” “In all seriousness, we’ve tried not to talk about his timeline a lot.

“He knows his body better than anybody. Our performance team and training staff have done a tremendous job getting him to this point, but I just don’t know how coming out of this pandemic will affect anybody, let alone Kevin.

“When you’ve got enough invested in a player like Kevin, we’re never going to push him to come back. When the timing is right, he’ll be 100 percent when he gets on the court.”

Then, Marks added, “I can tell you this though - before the pandemic, he looked like Kevin Durant and that’s a good thing.”

While that may not seem like much news, Marks did not dismiss the possibility, a subtle shift from previous comments. He’s now seemingly willing to discuss it. Both Marks and Rich Kleiman, Durant’s agent and manager, have repeatedly said they haven’t spoken about a return.

And following Marks’ interview, Chris Sheridan spoke with Kleiman who once again seemingly threw cold water on the idea.

“That still seems like something that is unrealistic,” Durant’s agent, Rich Kleiman, told Sheridan while discussing his latest venture, a sports business newsletter for fans called TheBoardroom.tv.

“I haven’t talked to Kevin in depth about anything like that because there remains so much uncertainty about the season in general,” Kleiman said.

Still, with any return-to-play months away ... and next season unlikely start till December... KD’s layoff would wind up being 18 months long, not a year. Durant ruptured his Achilles in June of 2019, during Game 5 of the 2019 Finals, as Ian Eagle told Mike Francesa Friday,

“Physically, I think he’s ready to go,” Eagle told Francesa. “There’s been a debate as to whether he could play if this NBA season came back. I think he could. I think the team is downplaying it, because that’s what they need to do. They don’t want to set expectations.”

Discussing his and Richard Jefferson’s March 4 interview with Durant, Eagle said “the look in his eye was that of a guy that’s ready to come back and a play, a guy who’s ready to compete,” said Eagle.

“Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that he doesn’t come back —that the NBA picks back up and Durant chooses not to play, he will not play potentially till December 2020 —that’s when the season might start. He got injured in June 2019. That’s a LONG time off. This guy is chomping at the bit.”

Eagle also suggested that both of the Nets superstars could return, noting as well as the KD and Kyrie “already have chemistry.”

Speculation about a Durant return has been growing since 1) the league shut down and 2) Durant’s team posted video of him doing 3-on-3 workouts. Earlier this week, Chris Chiozza, who played in some of those workouts said that there were 4-on-4 and even 5-on-5 drills.

“The first two days we played his handle was a little off because he hadn’t been playing,” Chiozza told a Glue Guys podcast. “But after those first two days, if he gets much better than this I don’t know. If he gets better than what he is right now, it is going to be a long season next year for whoever is guarding him.”

The Durant question was one of several Marks answered about a return to play. He wouldn’t predict what will happen but he was sure to note both his optimistic nature as well as his responsibility to prepare for whatever happens.

“I would say I’m a strategic optimist,” Marks told Chapman. “I look at the various pathways and avenues this can go, but at the end of the day, I want to believe in humanity, first and foremost.

“I’m going to prepare that we’re going to play, I’m going to prepare that we have a draft, that we have free agency and so forth, because not preparing could lead you down a rabbit hole.”

He spoke as well about how the team is trying to help players both physically and mentally.

“For the most part, the resilience they’ve shown has been pretty remarkable. These guys are all quite different in their set of circumstances - some have families, some have young kids, some are home-schooling, some are living by themselves.

“It’s important for us to acknowledge each one as an individual and try to cater as much as we can to their needs, whether that’s delivering food or checking in with them, or making sure they can get as much training and rehab as they can.”

Marks noted as well that things are changing fast.

“It’s not like we’re not throwing stuff on the wall, because we are,” he insists. “We’re throwing stuff up there like, ‘what if this happens, what if that happens… what are the circumstances we would need to return’.

“Nobody quite knows what the new normal will be. The new normal we were predicting a week ago is vastly different to the one we’re predicting right now… things are changing so quickly.”

Most of the players live in Brooklyn and most have not left the borough which along with Queens has become the epicenter of the pandemic not just in the U.S. but in the world.