TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
SportsBasketballNets

No Kevin Durant, but no problem for the Nets as they face Mavericks

Nets forward Kevin Durant shoots before a game

Nets forward Kevin Durant shoots before a game against the Kings at Barclays Center on Feb. 23, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

If nothing else, the Nets got a measure of clarity on Friday when it was announced that Kevin Durant would miss the final three games before the All-Star break because his strained left hamstring has been slow to mend. That meant he would miss his seventh straight game when the Nets faced the Mavericks on Saturday night at Barclays Center, plus a two-game trip to San Antonio and Houston before the break.

As it turns out, Durant played only 19 of the Nets’ 37 games before the break, and he played only seven games with the Big 3 since the Nets traded for James Harden to pair him with Kyrie Irving and Durant.

The Nets have 35 games in the second half, starting with a home game against the Celtics on March 11, and you wonder if that will be enough time for the Big 3 to build chemistry before the playoffs begin in mid-May.

"As far as guys having that runway together where we have a full roster, there’s still time," coach Steve Nash insisted. "There’s so many games in a condensed schedule. Is it ideal? No, but I don’t think this season is ideal for any team in the league.

 

"We’re all adjusting and dealing with different scenarios and shortcomings or adversities, and this is one we’re going to have to deal with in the interim and fortunately, we all expect Kevin to be 100% when he’s able to return. So that’s the positive."

The Nets (22-12) were a half-game behind the first-place 76ers in the Eastern Conference and entered the game against the Mavs (15-16) on an eight-game winning streak. Durant played in only one of those games, so the fact is the Nets have learned to win without a player who is averaging 29.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and who would be an MVP candidate had he played a full schedule.

At least, that’s how center DeAndre Jordan sees it.

"It obviously [stinks] not having Kevin on the floor with us, but we want him to be 100% sure that he’s able to be out there and be healthy," Jordan said. "His health is our No. 1 concern.

"With him being out, it gives other opportunities to guys to step up and get minutes and get experience out there so when he does come back, we’re even stronger and guys are prepared to play in tight-game situations and are getting a lot of reps they wouldn’t normally get if Kevin was around. We are going to hold down the fort until he is ready to come back."

Durant is shooting a career-high 43.4% from three-point range, but he hasn’t been missed because the Nets as a team are shooting 50.2% from the field, which leads the NBA, and 40.7% from three-point range, which ranks second. They are leading the NBA with 121.4 points per game.

Jordan, whose two-point field-goal percentage of 78.5% has made a big contribution to those stellar offensive stats, said, "Obviously, our defense is a big component with us getting out early and getting fast-break transition points. We’ve got so many weapons.

"Joe Harris [the NBA three-point percentage leader at .509] is shooting the ball better than anybody in the league right now. Kyrie is a great finisher and James is doing MVP things. He’s the best passer in our league at the moment [leading the NBA with 11.1 assists per game] and he’s shooting the heck out of the ball, too. Whenever Kevin is healthy, we have so many threats, guys that can create their own shots, create shots for other guys."

Still, the day when Durant rejoins a powerful Nets lineup can’t come soon enough.

New York Sports