NBA Injury Report: Nets Star Kevin Durant Nears Much-Awaited Return From Hamstring Injury
Kevin Durant set to return to action soon
It has been an injury-plagued season for the Brooklyn Nets so far, but they could be receiving a much needed and much awaited reinforcement soon. Reports have it that All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who suffered a hamstring injury and has been sitting out since last February, is set for a return to action probably in the Nets’ next few games.
Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press quoted Nets head coach Steve Nash as saying that Durant is expected to return this week, but then reiterated that nothing is written on the wall just yet. It is perfectly understandable why the Nets coaching staff are maintaining a very cautious approach to bringing back Durant, especially with the season entering its final stretch towards the more important games in the playoffs.
Durant, who is on his second year with the Nets, is currently putting up stellar numbers of 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest. On top of this exceptional stat line, Durant is also producing a very efficient set of shooting percentages evidenced in his 52% overall clip from the field, and an even more brilliant 43% clip from the three point line.
His return will be great for the Nets squad, who are still building their chemistry on the court. With James Harden adding more star power to the team, the Nets will now be able to field in a healthy superstar trio of Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving. As per Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Irving pointed out to the importance of not taking for granted the opportunity to put in the work alongside his new teammates. Irving notched his seventh All-Star appearance this season, and is looking to nab his second championship in the NBA.
“Well, first off, I’m really grateful that I have the support not only from the community that I come from but communities all over to be able to vote my teammates in. We just want to always put on a great performance after we take the hours to go home and work on our craft, and then we get selected of the best of the best in the world. So that honor doesn’t just go over my head. Like I said in the beginning of the season, I know how much I care about being validated culturally, just my culture in terms of the hooping culture. That’s where I came from, the NBA culture in terms of the fanatic and all the awards and accolades, they mean a lot, too.
But I do it for the love, so anytime I get a chance to do it on a bigger stage in front of millions of people, I’m going to take full advantage of that. All glory to God for the talent that he’s given me. And then, we have fun just building camaraderie as a brotherhood in the NBA and the All- Star Game. So it’s fun.”
As for Durant, it is indeed unfortunate that he sustained an injury just when they were starting to mesh as a team. One cannot forget that Harden was brought in to the team in the middle of the season, so he never got to prepare with the team in training camp during the offseason.
We have seen a lot of powerhouse squads brimming with star caliber players who have had a hard time of meshing with each other, costing them their shot at competing for the Larry O’Brien championship trophy. The 2011 version of the Miami Heat, who fielded in a star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, did not win it all right away.
So it is really of essence that the Nets will be able to collect tons of games with Durant, Harden and Irving playing alongside each other. Durant has missed more than a month already, and many people are still confused as to why a “hamstring strain” would need that long duration of recovery period.
In a separate column by Lewis for the New York Post, he sat down with Dr. Laith Jazrawi, an orthopedic surgeon, to discuss the intricacies of Durant’s hamstring injury. Jazrawi reiterated that this kind of injury really affects each type of movement that the affected player makes, so it is really difficult to gauge an exact timetable for Durant’s return. That is why the Nets coaching and medical staff are taking a very cautious in bringing back their superstar forward as Jazrawi ponted out that hamstring injuries come with a heightened tendency of re-aggravating it.
“It’s almost involved in every movement, every sort of twisting and cutting. So, it’s so hard to manage these patients, rest it or even rehab it because it’s just such a big muscle unit that resting it is almost impossible. It’s very difficult. Anytime you engage, do a sprint or cut quickly, the hamstrings fire. They stabilize the pelvis, but their main thing is for knee flexion. It really connects to the core. It’s all involved. So when a patient gets a hamstring injury, an athlete, I tell him six weeks minimum, sometimes three months. It depends on the severity. If it’s a real tear, it’s definitely going to be closer to three months from recovery, where they’re back to top shape. The other thing with hamstring injuries [is] that they could linger and cause chronic pain issues where they re-injure it slightly.
And if you go back too early, there’s a high incidence of reinjuring it, so it becomes a vicious cycle. Oftentimes you try to get back, you get what Durant has, he gets back, he reinjures it, back-and-forth, or he doesn’t feel comfortable and then it ends up going to be three, six months all of a sudden. It’s not atypical. Every time I hear about a hamstring injury that’s taking a long time, I [think] that makes sense.”
It also does not help that Harden is also going through his own hamstring injury. Harden, who notched his ninth All-Star appearance this season, was traded to the Nets after an unceremonious ending to his long and productive tenure with the Houston Rockets.
After spending his first three years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden then signed with the Rockets in the summer of 2012. That ended his brief but productive partnership with Durant and Russell Westbrook, the young star trio who steered the Thunder to a coveted NBA Finals appearance against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012.
Harden would grow into a bona fide superstar in Houston as his offensive potential reached its peak status. Aside from consecutive selections to the All-Star Game, Harden also nabbed an MVP award and led the league in scoring for three seasons. Harden eclipsed the 30-point average in each of those three seasons, proving that he is indeed one of the best scorers that the NBA has seen in all its history.
Prior to their recent 114-112 victory over the New York Knicks, Harden already missed two games due to his bothersome hamstring injury. He made his return against the Knicks, but was immediately pulled out in the first quarter as it became apparent that the hamstring injury is still hindering him from moving at ease on the floor.
Nets head coach Steve Nash addressed what happened, and said that it is certainly not a serious injury. The first time head coach emphasized that the scans and the strength tests did not turn in anything negative, so it was just something that Harden felt off in his injured hamstring.
“Very similar to last time, just an awareness of something’s not right in his hammy. His scan was clean as we reported, his strength tests when he came back in the locker room were normal. So it’s just something where we have to protect. Have to trust him. Very frustrating for James. But we can’t risk it if we can afford not to. That depends on trust between us and James and making sure he feels comfortable in the decision, and I thought the right decision was not to take any risks. Who knows? This may linger. It may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game. But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean, but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.
When he went back, they tested his strength. I’m sure they pushed and prodded, and the report was that they couldn’t declare there was anything. But he’s feeling something, and we believe that. It’s frustrating. But we don’t have any indicator that this is a long-term thing or that he’s done any damage to it. Like we said, the scan was clear, the strength is still there. We just have to proceed day by day and monitor it, and hopefully it’s a short-term thing.”
With Harden re-aggravating his hamstring injury, it is definitely expected that he will sit out more games. That is indeed a big blow to the Nets, especially with Harden carrying an all around stat line of 26.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 11.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks in the 33 games that he played for his new team so far.
The Nets, who are currently sporting an excellent record of 35 wins against 16 defeats, have taken over the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They are half a game ahead of Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, with teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat, the Charlotte Hornets, the Boston Celtics and the Knicks making up the rest of the playoff picture in the East.
However, the recent Harden injury will further deplete the Nets backcourt depth that is already plagued by injuries. Back up guards like Tyler Johnson (Knee) and Landry Shamet (Ankle) are also sitting out due to respective injuries. That leaves the flamboyant star point guard Kyrie Irving as the main face of the Nets’ backcourt, and he will indeed be carrying a heavier workload, especially if Durant does not return in the next couple of games.
It also means that for the meantime, the Nets will also rely more on the two former All-Star frontcourt players that they recently brought in via the buyout market. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are yet to really establish a good chemistry with the team but with the injuries to Harden and Durant, they might be hard pressed to bring in more production on both ends of the floor.
During his debut in the Nets’ 111-89 victory over the Hornets, Aldridge came up with an all around stat line of 11 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. As per Matt Eppers of USA TODAY Sports, Aldridge reiterated that he was just out there finding open looks within the flow of the offense, and not forcing too much shots. The veteran big man also emphasized that he has been working in staying in game shape during his personal hiatus, and that definitely paid dividends.
"Just try to find my spots to help these guys be better, try to open up the floor for Kyrie, James, KD," Aldridge said. "And when teams switch, just go down low. So I thought tonight was perfect. We had a good balance of inside, outside. They doubled me tonight, so I was just trying to find the open guy.
I've been working. I wasn't just sitting on my couch," Aldridge said. "I'm an older guy, so I know how to stay ready. I was surprised how good my wind was because I thought I would definitely be more tired, but I felt great."
After their recent morale boosting victory over their rival Knicks, the Nets will host two more tough home games against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, followed by a match-up against Kyle Kuzma and the injury-plagued Los Angeles Lakers.