For the second time in a week, Sean Marks left the door open to the notion of Kevin Durant recovering from his ruptured right Achilles tendon at some point during the 2019-20 season, but the Nets general manager was careful to stress that the Nets won’t put him at risk and the ultimate decision will be Durant’s.
Marks made his comments Tuesday in a WFAN interview with host Evan Roberts, and he echoed the sentiments he expressed a week earlier in a news conference at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas when asked if Durant might play in the coming season.
“From our standpoint, we’re going to let the performance team and his rehabilitation unfold the way it will,” Marks said. “I’d be doing an unfair judgment call if I said he is or he isn’t. I have no idea.
“We’re certainly not going to rush him back. There’s going to be absolutely none of that. We’ve got far too much invested in him, and we owe it to Kevin to get him back to 100 percent . . . This is going to entirely be a Kevin Durant decision.”
Elaborating on a meeting Durant had with the Nets’ performance team on July 8, Marks said, “Since signing with us, he has met with all our performance team, and I could see from the look on his face that he was certainly pleased with what we had in front of him. He is going to attack this rehab like no other. I have complete confidence in that, listening to what he’s had to say and his complete buy-in so far.”
Whether or not Durant plays, Marks said the two-time NBA Finals MVP will make an impact in the Nets’ locker room and on the court simply with his presence, suggesting he might act effectively as an assistant coach during practices and games. “I’m sure our guys are going to be picking his brain because there isn’t a play or a circumstance that he hasn’t seen,” Marks said. “So, his value is definitely going to be seen on the court.”
Asked by Roberts what reasons Durant cited for choosing the Nets, Marks said, “He said, ‘I like the system; I like how you guys play; I see how hard your guys play; you were never out of games. We could never take you guys lightly. If we were up 10 with two minutes to go, we knew that didn’t mean anything against Brooklyn.’
“That’s a real credit to the competitive environment Kenny has really brought.”
Some have wondered how Atkinson’s demanding style will mesh with Kyrie Irving, the other top-tier free agent signed by the Nets. Irving had problems last season with Celtics coach Brad Stevens and some of his young teammates, but Marks said Irving will have a clean slate with the Nets.
“First and foremost,” Marks explained, “is to sit down and give the young man his time and say, ‘Kyrie, how do we make this a success for you? What do you need from us? This is how we’re going to play; this is our system . . . within our culture, and this is how you can help drive it. What do you think to that?' "
Besides Durant and Irving, the Nets also are adding DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler and David Nwaba to their core of young players. Marks said the improved overall level of talent may require some adjustments.
“I think everything has to change slightly,” Marks said. “We haven’t had that type of talent, and that’s across the board. I’ll put all our free agents in there. They have to start driving the culture. These guys have been in the league, they’re elite-level players, and we have to see what we can learn from them.
“But I can assure you Kenny is not going to be anything different than who Kenny is. When Kyrie and KD and DJ and Garrett came in here, they knew what Kenny is, and they talked about it. They said they loved the emotion he shows.”