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Kevin Durant on Kyrie Irving: ‘We all think, like, he may come back. Who knows?’

2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In a conversation with his former nemesis, Charles Barkley, Tuesday night, Kevin Durant said that while the Nets think Kyrie Irving will eventually return to the team, he offered some doubt, adding, “who knows.” The Nets MVP candidate also said that “for now,” the team has to move on and play with “the guys we have here.”

“It’s going well. I mean, I think we understand the situation we’re in, and a lot of guys got to step up and play different roles. I mean, we all think, like, he may come back. Who knows? But for now, we’ve got ... We still have to play the games with the guys we have here.” said Durant of the team’s feelings on Irving who the Nets exiled following his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Everybody’s been locked-in on that since Day 1 of the season. Just, like, let’s focus on who’s in the locker room and once that situation figured out, we’ll adjust back to that. But for now, everybody’s just trying to figure out their roles on this team. And at this point, it’s been exciting trying to figure that out.”

Durant’s comment comes two days after Steve Nash said that he’s “trying to build a new team” without Irving, another indication that Irving while he remains on the roster is not in the team’s current plans. In his pregame comments Wednesday, Nash admitted the loss of Irving has had a broad and deep effect.

“This [team] in particular is built around three stars. To lose one it not only affects the top of the team it also affects the bottom of the team... to lose that player, there’s a trickle down effect,” said the Nets second year coach.

Later Wednesday, Irving and fellow New Jersey schoolboy legend Tim Thomas showed up at the Prudential Center in Newark to watch Seton Hall best Fairleigh Dickinson. Irving didn’t speak to reporters, being escorted to and from his seat at the arena. Thomas said that Irving is working out and concentrating on New Jersey hoops.

Irving hasn’t spoken publicly since October 14 about his decision, saying his refusal to get at least one shot was a protest against vaccine mandates. Indeed, New York City’s vaccine mandate for indoor venues is why he hasn’t played this season. While he could play games away from Barclays Center, the Nets decided such a plan would be too “disruptive” and essentially told him to stay home. Under the Nets ruling, Irving is also banned from practicing.

Durant and Barkley had a famous tete-a-tete last December when KD pointedly gave the Chuckster a one-word answer — “yeah” — after Barkley asked if he had been working on his game during the 561 days he had missed following his 2019 achilles injury. Durant didn’t even look at the camera, a sign of disrespect that many believed was in response to Barkley’s previous assertion that Durant wasn’t a leader, calling him “a bus rider rather than a bus driver.”

Durant, known of his long memory, tried to clear all that up Tuesday in the interview that was a collaborative effort between TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and “The ETCs” with Eddie Gonzalez. With a smile, KD said that he was simply waiting for Barkley to follow-up.

“You made a statement and I thought you were going ask a follow up,” Durant told Barkley.

“So, it was a misunderstanding,” responded Barkley. “It made great TV.”

On Tuesday, the two spoke animatedly about a number of topics, including the differences between the two on social media, mentors, etc. Barkley, as he’s said in the past, expressed his lack of interest in engaging online while Durant, who is active on Twitter and Instagram in particular, likes to chop it up with fans.

“I enjoy engaging with the fans. I used to take it personally. There was a point where I used to think the people were trying to personally attack me through my social media,” said KD, who has been noticeably more mellow on a number of issues. “Then I realized these people don’t know me at all. A lot of people were just excited to have an interaction, just have a way to get some attention some way.”

The two also spoke about their mentors with Barkley recalling how a conversation his rookie year with Moses Malone made a big impression on him.

Barkley then went to Malone to seek advice regarding his weight, then at around 300 pounds, and Malone was brutally honest.

“He says, ‘Young fella, you’re fat and you’re lazy.’ And I’m like, what?” Barkley said. “He says, ‘You’re lazy because you’re fat... Charles, you can’t play basketball at 290-300 pounds in the NBA, the guys are too good. And from that day forward, this guy changed my whole life.

“...And if Moses hadn’t taken me under his wing, you know what I’d be saying? Welcome to McDonalds... that would’ve been my damn job.”

For KD, the list of mentors was long...

“Kurt Thomas, Donyell Marshall, Andra Griffin … my rookie year. Francisco Elson … Got Wally Szczerbiak. They kind of introduced me to what it means to work as an NBA player,” Durant told Barkley. “You have an idea in college and high school what it means to work after practice and how to practice hard, but once you get into the league and you got six months of this everyday (for) 82 games, you got to condition your mind and your body and have older dudes that have been through the grind.”

Durant spoke as well about being named to the NBA’s 75th anniversary. It was a very big deal for him.

“You see everybody who played the game and how many people aspire to be basketball players and to be amongst that 75 greatest is a surreal feeling. You put in so much work and to be recognized for something like that is just sweet. Your peers voted for you, people that have been around the game for 75 years voted for you, it makes you feel like you’re doing something right …

“I called up my moms, I called up my AAU coach from when I was 8-9 years old, you know people that were around for the journey. You hit them up because they know how special the game is too. I love that the NBA did that.”