The last player on the Nets’ practice floor on Thursday was one Kevin Durant, who is earning $37.2 million this season while recovering from surgery last June to repair his ruptured right Achilles tendon.
Durant did not have a basketball in his hands and was simply going through a rehab drill moving around four cones, but coach Kenny Atkinson couldn’t help but remark how good it looked to see “that guy over there” on the court.
On the same day that Kyrie Irving returned to full practice for the first time since last playing on Nov. 14, Atkinson spoke of a conversation he had with Irving and Durant on Wednesday, although it wasn’t clear at first that he was including Durant.
“We had a great talk,” Atkinson said. “I talk to these guys all the time, and [there was] one particular thing I think we can do that both of them have done before, a kind of set that we can use.”
Asked if he meant Irving and guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Atkinson said, “No, KD and Kyrie, just something that could help our offense and stuff they’re comfortable with. It’s short-term right now, helping us now, but also thinking about the future, too. In two months, six months.”
That seemed to hint at a possible return by Durant this season despite an announcement before the season began that the organization does not expect him to be ready until the 2020-21 season. Asked if the timetable for Durant has moved up, Atkinson put the brakes on that notion.
“I think we’re still in the same place,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any thoughts of that happening.''
When pressed later for information on Durant’s progress in rehabilitation, Atkinson declined to provide any specific details, but with a smile, he added, “I will say he’s progressing fantastically. Talking to him, talking to the performance team, came in and watched him [on Wednesday] do his exercises. You can probably see he’s moving a lot better, moving a lot more. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and get people mad at me for giving you more than that.”