It took 17 months but it was well worth the wait.
On Sunday night, Kevin Durant suited up for the first time as a member of the Brooklyn Nets in an opening preseason matchup against the Washington Wizards, 531 days after signing a four-year megadeal alongside Kyrie Irving to shake the NBA and New York basketball landscape to its core.
The 32-year-old, 10-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion, and 2014 league MVP was forced to sit out the entire 2019-20 season while he recovered from a ruptured Achilles suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
There were rumors that he could suit up for the Nets during the postseason bubble, but caution was practiced, allowing a fully healthy Durant to feel secure during his Brooklyn debut.
“I was anxious, nervous,” Durant said. “I visualized this moment for so long — nine, 10 months of thinking about how it would be, this next phase of my career, I felt like I was chomping at the bit, especially once COVID hit because I didn’t see a future — when the season was going to start in the future. I was going through it.
“So to go through this felt solid.”
He played for exactly half the game — 24 of 48 minutes — dropping 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting with three rebounds and three assists.
It took just 46 seconds for him to get on the board, throwing down a two-handed dunk to ease into his return.
“It felt great, you know, to be back in a routine and get back on the floor and feel like a player again,” he said. “I didn’t think I played great. I felt I had some solid moments.”
With a healthy Durant to pair with Irving, the Nets are expected to make a sizable push for the Eastern Conference crown this season, officially pulling the franchise out of a hole that saw them sink to the lowest depths of the NBA throughout the 2010s.
“I know Nets fans were looking forward to this day but hopefully they enjoyed it on their TV,” Durant told YES Network after the game. “Individually, we all have to bring what’s best to the table, and then collectively, we have to continue to find a way to integrate everyone into the offense and defense. Top-to-bottom, guys are looking forward to the season.”