After missing nearly two months due to a left hamstring strain, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant quelled any lingering questions about his health as the playoffs approached: He looked like the same old superstar.
Coming off the bench on his return from a 23-game absence, KD scored 17 points on 5 of 5 shooting from the field and had seven rebounds, five assists and a block in 19 minutes in a 139-111 win over New Orleans. Pelicans.
It was unclear what kind of performance KD could deliver on his comeback on Wednesday night. After all, he was coming off the bench for the second time in his career and hadn’t played with several new teammates, including Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
But Durant said his success didn’t surprise him.
“I was hoping to come here and play like I did,” he said. “I just wanted to get out there and get right into the action. The game was already hectic, so watching it from the bench I knew exactly how I had to approach it. But it was great to get off the bench, I can’t lie. It was good to play in front of the fanatics. “
Durant’s mother, Wanda, was one of the fans who happily applauded her son’s return inside the Barclays Center as he moved up and down the court with ease in a return that had long been gearing up for a Nets who have aspirations of championship.
Nets coach Steve Nash said he knows how important it was to have Durant back on the court, not just for his team but for the player himself.
“I think everyone is excited to see it,” Nash said. “Everybody knows what a great part of our team he is, and he’s one of the greats of all time. So I think the fact that our guys saw him there was definitely exciting and gave them a boost. I think we’ve had a lot of that this year, guys in and out, so it was good to have him back.
“It’s been a long absence that no one predicted, even when it first happened, so we are delighted that he felt good, played well and is back and seeing that smile on his face was important to me too – excited for him. He loves the game more than anything and needs to be out there playing. “
Nash said the decision to take Durant off the bench was made in case the game got closer and they needed him at the end, but Durant said he is confident that after a few games, he will likely return to his regular minutes.
For Griffin, who signed with the Nets last month after being bought by the Detroit Pistons, the transition to playing with Durant was easy.
Griffin was impressed with how productive Durant was on his return, saying, “After missing two months and looking so comfortable, it’s crazy.”
“As far as playing him, some of the guys we have, they just make the game easy, so for me it’s just doing the reps and getting used to it,” Griffin said.
Nash echoed a similar sentiment, underscoring how easy Durant can make the game for the rest of his teammates.
“It’s not difficult to play basketball with Kevin Durant,” Nash said. “So I think he’s going to improve the guys. He demands a lot of attention and creates a lot of space on the court. He’s a shot maker, but he also creates a lot for his teammates, whether it’s through passing or just his presence.”
The scary part for the rest of the League is that the Nets are not yet in full force. Another former MVP, James Harden, remains out with a right hamstring strain.
No matter who’s on the court, Durant looks like he’s found a comfort level with the group and hopes to learn even more as the pieces come together.
“When we move our bodies and move the basketball like we did, we talk defensively, it’s fun,” Durant said. “You have veteran players who know how to play. It seems these guys can finish my sentence before I’m done. So these guys know the game from the inside out. They know me, they know each other as teammates and from playing against. each other over the years, so it’s pretty straightforward. “