In our NetsDaily poll, fans are divided on whether Kevin Durant should have returned to the Nets for the resumed regular season and, presumably, the playoffs.
Only 30 percent of the 1,200 fans who responded think KD made a mistake in deciding about playing. Nearly a majority —48 percent in the admittedly non-scientific poll — think he did the right thing while 19 percent say they simply don’t know enough.
Pundits, of course, are having their say, led by Marc Stein. The Times writer references the anniversary of the injury, which took place a year ago Wednesday, in his analysis.
Kevin Durant went, in an instant, from unleashing a crossover dribble on the right wing against Serge Ibaka in the N.B.A. finals to hobbling to the sideline with a torn Achilles’ tendon in his right leg.
For Stein, Durant’s decision not to come back was the best of a number of bad choices, the “smartest strategy,” as he put it.
There is no upside to Durant altering his timetable. Why would he or the Nets want to rush into the unknown of what may be the most unwelcoming environment in league history?
Why place so much importance on a season that will surely be labeled by some within the league, as well as historians on the outside, as not being a true continuation of the 2019-20 campaign that was suddenly halted on March 11 by the coronavirus outbreak?
Right. It’s a reckless idea.
Add to that KD’s bout with coronavirus. He was one of four Nets players (and the only one to be identified) who tested positive back in March. He may have been asymptomatic through the course of his infection but as his manager and agent Rich Kleiman noted, it was a “scary” time as he waited in isolation. It also interfered with his rehab.
Stein notes as well that the experience of other (older, it should be added) players who ruptured their Achilles. They may have come back in nine or ten months, but KD isn’t trying to “win a rehab race,” Stein wrote.
The wisest path is to stay methodical and try to be uber-prepared to start next season in high gear — when LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and the rest of Durant’s top-shelf contemporaries will be emerging from the shortest off-season ever.
Stein also thinks that the Nets aren’t going deep in the post-season anyway —some Nets players disagree— and sums up why it’s smart for him —and the Nets.
With two more guaranteed years on his Nets contract, that is precisely where Durant’s focus should be. Taking a long-term view is best for the Nets, too, no matter where you stand on the merits of an N.B.A. postseason that will be played at a centralized site with no fans, no travel and increased injury risk for many players after an abrupt three-month break. They simply aren’t ready to challenge the elite now.
As Durant told Marc J Spears earlier in the week, “For the first time, I felt like I was in my own space rehabbing. I could really take my time and focus on myself each and every day.”
Stein isn’t alone. In a FOX Sports roundtable discussion, Nick Wright of also called the decision smart, adding that the timing was ideal, before the hype got too high. Wright said that Durant may very well looking at his legacy, saying that if he wins “one title in Brooklyn,” he becomes “universally accepted as one of the top 10 players of all time,” Wright said as well that one more championship and KD surpasses Larry Bird in the NBA’s pantheon.
Chris Broussard, on the same video, agreed and added that even if KD is physically okay, there are “mental hurdles” for any athlete coming back from injuries and he’s had added issues like the coronavirus diagnosis and the break in his rehab. . BUT the former Times and ESPN reporter thinks that Durant should have gone to Orlando, get on the court and see what it would be like, how he felt.
Here’s that video...
It’s uncertain, however, whether Durant would even be permitted in the Walt Disney World “bubble” if he isn’t playing.
Elsewhere, Skip Bayless went ballistic on the decision.
On Tuesday morning, Bayless expressed his feelings about KD’s decision on his “Undisputed” show with Shannon Sharpe. After Sharpe defended the decision, Bayless got his chance...
“I am disappointed in the best player on the planet,” he said. ”It makes me wonder about Kevin because great players just play. Michael Jordan came back early from injury. All the great ones, they just played because they loved the game.
“I don’t know what’s Kevin doing. This feels like coasting to me. This feels like a little semi-retirement. ‘I won my two rings in Golden State. What more do you want from me?’ Play Kevin, play!”
Coasting? really. And here’s that video...
Who gets last word? Kevin Durant, of course.