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Kevin Durant excited, energized about return after six-week layoff but challenge is daunting

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michelle Farsi/Getty Images

It’s been six long weeks for Kevin Durant, his teammates and Nets fans since he went down on January 15 with a sprained MCL. Of those 21 games the Nets were without KD, Brooklyn won only five and went through an 11-game losing streak.

On Thursday, KD sat down with reporters and expressed optimism that with him back on the court, things would turn around. The reality of course is that his team is in the eighth seed and a near certainty for the play-in tournament next month where the seventh through 10th seeds will battle for the final two seeds in the East.

“We are cutting it close,” said Durant. “There’s only 30 games left in the season. We gotta go out there and figure it out.”

Actually, there are only 19 left and the availability of his two “Big Three” teammates remains uncertain. Ben Simmons, according to his agent Rich Paul, is more “week to week” than “day to day,” because of a setback in his ramp-up, per Brian Windhorst. The ESPN writer, who first broached the possibility that Simmons could be traded for James Harden also said it’s possible that the three-time All-Star may not play at all in March.

And increasingly, it looks like Kyrie Irving won’t be permitted to play at Barclays Center because of the city’s private employer mandate. Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday that there’s “no timetable” for removing the employer mandate. John Abbamondi, the Nets and BSE Global CEO, told reporters two days ago that the Nets are “in close contact with the city,” noting that he’s “optimistic the infection rates in the city will continue to go down and that the restrictions will be lifting gradually for everybody in the city.”

Despite all that, Durant told the media Thursday,

“I feel energized ...“I know what I can do and how I can help this team,” adding, “It sucked not being out there and not being around the team.”

Still, he noted, he will need help.

“I don’t look at myself as that, as a savior,” said KD. “But I know what I can do and how much I can help this team and what we’re missing as a group, but I’m not trying to go out there and win a game by myself tonight or make it all about me. I just try to go out there and help.”

No word on what starting line-up interim head coach Jacque Vaughn will roll out vs. the Heat, but it’s likely to include Andre Drummond and Seth Curry who’ll be playing their first game with Durant, as will Goran Dragic of the bench.