For the first time since the NBA suspended play 76 days ago on March 11, the Nets’ training facility near Industry City in Brooklyn will open on Tuesday for players to return for individual workouts on a voluntary basis. The majority of NBA teams were given the go-ahead by the league on May 8, but the Nets had to wait until Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday that professional sports teams in New York can re-open training facilities under proper health protocols.
Brooklyn has been a hotbed during the COVID-19 virus outbreak, and for more than 10 weeks since the NBA shutdown, Nets players could enter the facility only to undergo treatment for injuries. As a result, approximately half the players on their 15-man roster left the area, including Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan, who went to California and Spencer Dinwiddie, who has been in Texas. Veterans Joe Harris and Garrett Temple are among those who have remained in Brooklyn for treatment.
At this point, the Nets are not permitted to ask players to return, but it won’t be surprising if more come back as all signs point to the NBA ramping up for a return to regular practices in June and a potential return to action in mid-July. Multiple outlets citing league sources suggest the leading scenario is for the 16 teams in playoff position when the season was suspended to go straight into the playoffs, and the NBA previously announced it is negotiating with Disney World in Orlando to provide the playing facilities and housing for every team involved.
As the current seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, the Nets will return under any scenario to resume NBA play. The Board of Governors is expected to hold a conference call later this week, and that might provide more clarity on what form a return to play might take. For now, teams may have a maximum of four players in the facility, and they must practice at separate baskets with one coach who is wearing a mask and gloves. A Nets source said the team plans no updates on which players are in town for voluntary workouts.
If the NBA announces a return to play, the most intriguing question for the Nets is whether Durant and Kyrie Irving will return from injuries to join their teammates on the court. Durant has been progressing in rehab from Achilles tendon surgery last June, and Irving, who played only 20 games with the 30-34 Nets, is coming back from shoulder surgery in March.
General manager Sean Marks previously said it is unlikely Durant will return this season despite the delay. In a recent interview with SkySport, an outlet in his native New Zealand, Marks was asked if the Nets could be considered title contenders with Durant and Irving, and he cited the uncertainty surrounding both players and sounded as if he is taking a long-term approach.
“How does Kevin look when he comes back?” Marks said. “I can tell you now he looks pretty damn good, and I’m excited about him being back on the floor at Barclays [next season] in front of that fan base. But how do they mesh? How do they play together?
“That’s the chess game, the intricacies of a what a coaching staff does, what the management group does to put the right pieces around them.”
Marks also said Durant and Irving, having won championships on other teams with major stars, chose to join the Nets to establish their own legacy and likely will be involved in offseason personnel decisions.
“Now, it’s how do we make this ours, how do we take this to the next level and who do we do it with?” Marks said. “That’s a big part of their decisions. They’re going to have a voice. ‘Hey, do I want to play with Caris LeVert…Spencer Dinwiddie, the other guys on our team?’ They’re playing for their legacy.
“There isn’t an immediate rush…However, we now have Kyrie and Kevin and this group of players here. It’s going to take more than those two. It’s going to take a group that stays healthy. You have to have a little bit of luck involved. We’ll see how it all meshes and how it unfolds.”
In the end, those answers might wait until next season.