Nets looking to lessen minutes burden on Kevin Duran

Nets Paul George
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

It’s no secret that Kevin Durant would play every minute of every game if he had his way, but even though the Nets coaching staff doesn’t allow that to occur now, he has still played an exorbitant amount of minutes early on this season. In Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Durant was on the floor for 36:52, which was right on par with his season average. 

It was the 22nd time this season that he has played between 30 and 39 minutes in a game and he has played below 35 minutes in a game just six times through the first 23 games. All of that to say that Durant has played a lot of basketball in a short period of time and the coaching staff is looking to find a way to lessen the burden in the future. 

“It’s not ideal,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn about Durant’s minutes. “While we’re in win-now mode, win today’s game, we are behind the scenes talking about what the stretch looks like beyond tomorrow and beyond the next day. So it is on our minds. We’ll map out some time where we’ll save a shoot-around and maybe not have it. So be strategic that way but ideally, he wouldn’t be playing this amount of minutes this early, for sure.”

Durant is leading the NBA in total minutes and averaging 36.7 minutes per game thus far. Part of that has come out of necessity for Brooklyn, which has had to deal with injuries and the suspension of Kyrie Irving for eight games due to the off-court controversy that he found himself in. 

That has forced the Nets to heavily rely on the franchise cornerstone, which he hadn’t seemed to mind or be impacted by. Durant is already putting up all-star numbers and was instrumental in the Nets’ past two wins with 45 and 39-point efforts. 

And the Nets superstar has shot better than 60% in three straight

“I’m just playing carefree basketball. I mean, I think that’s the best way to play,” Durant said about his recent run. “Sometimes when you want to win too much you get in your own way and you distract yourself a bit. You worry about the results too much. So I was trying to focus on each process, each possession and also move on to the next possession regardless of if the previous possession is good or bad. I try to move on and keep stacking up good possession for myself.

“I’m trying to stay mentally above everything and just keep grinding out every single possession. Every rep means something to me so I got to stick with that.”

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For Vaughn, who took over for Steven Nash as head coach in November, working with Durant has been something he has enjoyed but has had to remind himself not to take for granted. 

“The fact that he shows up every single day. He’s ready to work. He’s ready to listen, he’s ready to be a great teammate. Our relationship has grown, the ability to talk to him about what’s needed, what’s missing. All that’s been a joy,” Vaighn said.