No one in the NBA has played more minutes than Kevin Durant this season.
At age 34, Durant led the league in total time played heading into Wednesday night’s action with a total of 922 minutes in 25 games.
Durant’s average of 36.9 minutes per game ranks third in the league behind Anfernee Simons (37.1) and Jayson Tatum (37.0). Tatum is 10 years younger than Durant and Simons is 11 years his junior.
Named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the week on Monday, Durant has played a particularly taxing role in the Nets' current seven-game homestand. The Nets entered Wednesday night’s game against Charlotte having gone 4-1 on the homestand. Durant
who played 40 minutes Sunday in a loss to Boston, averaged 37.2 minutes in those five games.
Durant has not complained about his workload and has more than once semi-joked that he aims to play “48 a game.” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn, however, knows this is not been a sustainable situation.
“It’s priority No. 1, all honesty,” Vaughn said when asked in his pregame news conference Wednesday if he was looking to cut back Durant’s minutes. “You know I’ve talked about the short- and long-term piece of it. I knew we were going to have to have a tremendous effort against Boston and we had two-and-a-half days before we played Charlotte tonight.
“We take care of business tonight and we’re 5-1 in our homestand. Then we have Atlanta, then you go 6-1 hopefully, all right. So that’s your thought process behind it. Now you have a back-to-back to deal with. Hopefully you got some injured guys that have been back on the injured list to help you on the back-to-back. Then you take a sigh of relief.”
In other words, should the Nets take care of business on Wednesday and Friday vs. Atlanta, it’s possible that Vaughn would consider resting Durant Saturday in Indiana. After that the Nets have a less taxing schedule for a while.
Over the past six games, the Nets became a winning team for the first time this season. It’s clear that Vaughn believes he had to make the stretch a priority and he has done what he can do to give his players rest. The Nets did not hold a team practice between Sunday’s loss to Boston and Wednesday night’s game, though players did come in to work out individually on Tuesday. He also did not hold a shootaround Wednesday morning, and instead did a brief session at the arena before the game.
Durant and Royce O’Neale are the only Nets to have played in all 25 games. Durant has not played in more than 55 games in a season since he was in Golden State in 2018-19. With the suspension of Kyrie Irving for eight games and, more recently, injuries to Ben Simmons and Yuta Watanabe, the Nets have needed heavy minutes from Durant.
Durant hasn’t played more than 55 games in a season since 2018-19, and the Nets don’t want to risk having a major injury happen to their best player.
The good news is that the Nets bench is about to get longer as Simmons is planning to come back Friday in Indiana and Watanabe will be back for either that game or the next game Saturday in Washington D.C.
“So there is vision going ahead of hopefully getting some of those minutes down,” Vaughn said of Durant. “It's just stretches of the season where you are trying to win games, you’re trying to win that day's game and you hope you get through by playing Kevin those amount of minutes with the long-term view of cutting those minutes.”