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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Kevin Durant's No. 1 defender: New teammate and best friend Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving poses for pictures during Nets media

Kyrie Irving poses for pictures during Nets media day on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Photo Credit: James Escher

No, the Nets will not rush Kevin Durant to get back on the court.

Not if Kyrie Irving has anything to say about it.

Irving, Durant’s close friend and new Nets teammate, took a solid swipe at Durant’s former team on Friday, saying the Golden State Warriors put their needs before Durant’s when they let him return and play in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Durant missed a month after injuring his right calf in the second round of the playoffs. With the Warriors on the brink of elimination in the NBA Finals, Durant returned to play Game 5 and ruptured his Achilles tendon.

“A lot of people have responsibilities for why that happened on a national stage. We all know K was not ready to play in that environment,” Irving said at Nets media day. “We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not. He was out 31 days and we put him on a national stage on the NBA Finals to end up selling a product that came before the person, Kevin.

“And now I am here to protect that. I am going to be the protector and not let anyone infiltrate that circle. ‘Hey K, do you. Get right. We’ll be fine.’ ”

Irving is right. The Nets will be fine without Durant this season.

No, they won’t contend for a championship without the two-time NBA Finals MVP. But with the addition of Irving and DeAndre Jordan, they will be a pretty interesting playoff team.

The Nets have not completely shut the door on Durant playing this season, Year One of his four-year deal, though general manager Sean Marks said earlier in the week that they are not planning on having him play.

Durant himself said his main job this season is “to get healthy and be a teammate.”

Durant has said he does not blame the Warriors for his Achilles injury, though he understands why Irving is looking out for him.

“When I went down, it seems like everyone wanted to put their arms of protection around me — from people I didn’t know to my best friend, Kyrie,’’ he said. “I felt everyone was real protective of me and will continue to be that way, especially involving my health. But I make my own decisions.”

He certainly does. We all saw that this summer when Durant stunned the NBA by joining forces with Irving and Jordan and coming to the Nets.

Durant said the three decided they were headed to Brooklyn during a 4:16 a.m. FaceTime call on June 30, the first day of free agency.

“We were just like, ‘Are we ready to do it?’’ and everybody was like, ‘Yeah,’ ’’ Durant said. “I mean, it was really that simple. I try to think of something deeper, but it really was that simple.”

Durant said he didn’t spend a whole lot of time making up his mind to leave Golden State after three seasons. He said he thought “for about a minute” what his life would be like in “other places,” including with the Knicks and the Clippers.

He also did some research on Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, watching videos of his postgame interviews on YouTube.

“I liked his approach as a coach. That’s what drew me in,” Durant said. “I never had had a conversation with him, but I could see on YouTube that he was pretty genuine.”

It’s clear that team chemistry — with his coach and his teammates — means a lot for Durant. He always felt like a bit of an interloper on the Warriors, who had won a title before he got there. Now he’s in a place where he can build something and play with people he trusts.

Irving, who left Boston to come to the Nets, clearly will have his back.

“I’m going to be over-patient with Kevin because I don’t want anything like [what happened in Golden State] to happen ever again,” he said. “I want him to be 101 percent healthy.”

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