After missing six straight games in the past two weeks, All-Star forward Kevin Durant had what was described as "a routine follow-up MRI" on his strained left hamstring on Friday and was ruled out of the Nets’ final three games before the All-Star break, starting with their matchup against the Mavericks on Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Durant suffered the injury on Feb. 13 at Golden State in his first game back after missing three games because of COVID-19 protocols. Not only will he miss three more games, including a road trip to San Antonio and Houston, but he was ruled out of the All-Star Game on March 7 and was replaced by Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis on the roster.
Durant will have played just 19 of 37 games in the first half of the season, and his earliest possible return would be against the Celtics on March 11 at Barclays Center.
"It [stinks] to not have Kevin," coach Steve Nash said. With a smile, he added: "Any time you have the Lamborghini in the garage, it’s meant to be on the road. We’re all disappointed. But the team is going to be fine for stretches without Kevin.
"It’s more that you have this incredible player and you want to build with him, and beyond that, you just want Kevin to play. That’s what he does as well as anybody on the planet. But life is about adversity and coming back from it. He’s done it hundreds of times, and we have all the faith in him and his body and his mind to overcome this one as well."
Durant missed the entire 2019-20 season while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, but he returned this season to average 29.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists and shoot 43.4% from three-point range. But an injury that was expected to be short-term has not responded well.
"The second round of imaging when there was less bleeding, it was more clear to just be cautious and we’ll monitor him appropriately and make sure we get him back playing at the level he was playing at when he went out," Nash said.
"He got himself through one of the most devastating injuries in basketball and [was] playing at an All-Star level or even MVP level, and for it to kind of get shut down for a little while is very disappointing for him. He’s going to be back this season and we’ll all be grateful, but not until he’s ready."
The Nets (22-12) will carry an eight-game winning streak into the game against the Mavericks (15-16), and Durant played in only one of those games. But the Mavs have won six of eight behind All-Star guard Luka Doncic, who is averaging 28.5 points, 9.0 assists and 8.4 rebounds.
Asked if Doncic reminds Nash of himself, the Hall of Famer said: "If I were [6-7] and 230 pounds, yeah. That’s a big difference when you’re 6-2, 175 pounds. That is such a weapon to have that size, physicality . . . and his personality to be able to take over a game."
Notes & quotes: Center Jeff Green (right shoulder contusion) is questionable . . . The Nets re-signed Andre Roberson and Iman Shumpert to 10-day contracts after waiving them earlier this week.