Hope is an important thing to dangle in front of sports fans right now.
While the United States waits for their favorite leagues and teams to return, the Brooklyn Nets received an entire truckload of new hope this week when the words “Kevin Durant” and “return” were put together in the same sentence.
Nets general manager Sean Marks spoke with his native New Zealand’s Newshub where he wouldn’t rule out the return of the superstar, who signed a four-year, $164.2 million to join Brooklyn last summer.
He has yet to suit up for the Nets as he continues to recover from an Achilles injury suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals while with the Golden State Warriors and was expected to miss the entirety of the 2019-20 season.
But this year has been anything but normal.
The NBA was forced to suspend play indefinitely on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic with roughly 15 regular-season games remaining for each team.
While the league looks for a way to safely return and fairly crown a champion, each passing day accounts for one step closer in Durant’s recovery.
His potential presence for a Nets team clinging to one of the final playoff spots in the East would be invaluable — especially with fellow star first-year Net Kyrie Irving done for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery in February.
There remains to be no set date for the NBA’s return this season, with recent reports pointing at a possible return this fall to ensure the health and safety of their players.
But as it stands, Durant’s role remains uncertain, if not a pipe dream.
“That’s a $110 million question. In all seriousness, we’ve tried not to talk about his timeline a lot,” Marks said. “He knows his body better than anybody. Our performance team and training staff have done a tremendous job getting him to this point, but I just don’t know how coming out of this pandemic will affect anybody, let alone Kevin.”
Durant’s agent, Rich Kleiman, wasn’t as optimistic.
“That still seems like something that is unrealistic,” he told Forbes’ Chris Sheridan. “I haven’t talked to Kevin in-depth about anything like that because there remains so much uncertainty about the season in general.”
It’s that uncertainty which raises Marks’ expensive question: Is it worth bringing Durant back this season if or when the NBA restarts?
The timetable of a potential fall resumption should see Durant return to full health — or close to it. However, he is in the same boat as most of his peers in that he’s been unable to access team facilities, spend time with team doctors, and properly ramp up for the rigors of life in the NBA.
Sure, he was starting to run and shoot in February, but the COVID-19 outbreak has obviously thrown a wrench into those organized rehabilitation plans, especially since he tested positive for the virus back in March along with three other teammates.
Coming back from such a serious injury and with the Nets pouring in such a heavy investment, Durant jumping right back into NBA play without proper time to rehab and build up the lower part of his leg is a dangerous game to play, even if Brooklyn finds itself amid a playoff push this fall.