Through 24 games, the Nets (17-7) are on top of the Eastern Conference but the minute loads for both of their superstars early in the season have raised concerns.
But the concern doesn’t extend to the players.
Kevin Durant understands his increased minutes — and his injury history — May justify the debate, but he doesn’t want it hold him off the hardwood.
“I know people may be concerned about my minutes and that I got injured before and all this extra sh*t, but we’ll figure that out if I get there. Right now, I want to play basketball,” said Durant on his increased minutes. “I might play 48 tomorrow. Just cause. Give you something to talk about.”
In his latest game, Durant logged 40 minutes of action, which included playing the entire second half in the 102-109 win over the Mavericks Tuesday night. In fact, over the last five games, he’s averaging 40.4 minutes per.
Although Steve Nash has said he understands Durant’s passion for playing basketball, as well as the need to have Durant on court to win, he also understands Durant is pacing to set a career-high in minutes … at age 33.
The Nets superstar entered Tuesday’s game averaging 36.2 minutes per contest — ranking sixth in the league. In fact, he is playing the most minutes per game since his 2013-14 season when he was with the Thunder. Durant, who played 35 games last season but averaged an eye-popping 40.4 minutes in the 12 postseason games for Brooklyn, has seen his minutes jump in those last five contests. How big is that? It would rank first in the league if played out over the full season … and he doesn’t even play for Tom Thibodeau!
One concern the Nets do dismiss is whether KD’s big minutes could lead to a recurrence of his Achilles injury.
“I think there’s enough distance from the injury that we feel more confident,” Nash said. “At the same time, we don’t love it. We can do all this talk about improving through the year, but there’s always the risk of sometimes overburdening him and James as well. We have to be careful I’m not sure if tomorrow’s the day, but there will be times in the season where we have to be really smart and make difficult decisions.”
Although the spotlight is on Durant, he’s not alone in load concerns. James Harden, who logged 41 minutes in the win over the Mavericks, also ranks in the top 10 in minutes played per contest — No. 7 (35.9 minutes per game). With the Nets superstar’s Achillies injury highlighting the concern, the Nets head coach believes the caution dating to the career-threatening injury is in the past.
Harden, who has taken tremendous pride in his durability throughout his NBA career, is coming off his first serious injury — a hamstring strain that resulted in him dedicating his whole offseason to rehab. The injury limited the superstar to only 36 games last season and him missing three postseason contests. Harden believes his hamstring injury is behind him and he wants to be out on the hardwood … without restrictions.
“One thing about me and KD is we love to play basketball,” Harden said. “It doesn’t matter. We can play a whole 48. You know we’re exhausted but we want to stay in the game. We’re going to play. Steve has been in that position before so he kinda knows and got a feeling for the game. When it’s go time, you got to put your big dogs out there to go win the game. Simple.”
Although Durant made it clear he has every intention of playing Wednesday night against the Rockets — the second game of a back-to-back — without restrictions, the Nets head coach wouldn’t confirm he’ll suit up against Houston on back end of a back-to-back. Regardless, Durant has yet to sit in the second game of a back-to-back this season. Tonight will mark the team’s fifth so far.
“We’ll have to see,” Nash said. “We just wrapped this one up and we’ll see how everyone made out throughout the game and discuss it with the staff.”
- Kevin Durant, James Harden’s heavy Nets minutes likely won’t get them day off - Brian Lewis - New York Post
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