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Kevin Durant likely to return to Nets lineup later in week

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WI - FEBRUARY 26: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets smiles during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 26, 2022 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).

NBAE via Getty Images

Kevin Durant was not on the court Saturday when the Nets faced the Bucks, so Kyrie Irving took over that game for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash hinted Durant would not play in the critical home-and-home the Nets have Monday and Tuesday with the Raptors (Brooklyn is the No. 8 seed in the East, Toronto No. 7). However, later in the week seems likely. Here were Nash’s comments Saturday, via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“We’ll see. I expect in the next week he’ll be back for sure. It could be quick; it could be the whole week barring any setbacks...

“I think with Kevin he’s been a great healer throughout his career,” Nash said. “So the No. 1 thing is to get him back healthy and feeling secure in his health and his body so he can move and be free. When he’s back, obviously he adds a ton to our team on both ends of the floor ... one of the greatest scorers of all time. And we also know he helps us defensively; he gives us more size and length. So he’s a big miss for us, and whenever he gets back, he’ll impact our team.”

The Nets play two tough games later in the week against the Heat and Celtics.

Durant would be one Nets player back, just traded for Ben Simmons seems to be weeks away still.

Durant was playing at an MVP level this season when he suffered an MCL sprain and has been forced to miss 19 games and counting — and the Nets are 5-14 in those games, which had them tumbling down the East standings. KD means that much. He averaged 29.3 points per game, with 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists, plus he remains the best half-court shot-creator in the league.

The hope in Brooklyn is obvious: Durant returns to his MVP level, Irving can play in every game, Simmons comes in and accepts his role, and with a wealth of good role players — Seth Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, Nic Claxton, and on down the line (maybe Joe Harris, that is up in the air) — the Nets are contenders to come out of the East. The problem is the team’s recent struggles have them in the play-in tournament and likely staying there, which means a rough road through the postseason, starting on the road against a top-two seed.

It’s possible the Nets could still come out of the East through all of that, but none of that happens without a healthy Durant. He is still their best player.