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Nets can survive without Kevin Durant this time around

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Nets get update on Kevin Durant
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant warms up before an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

Talk about Deja Vu for the Nets.

It was nearly a year ago to the day that Kevin Durant suffered a nearly identical injury to the one that occurred on Sunday night in Miami and flipped their season upside down last year. The Nets, who were 27-15 at the time, fell to 5-16 over their next 21 games and dropped 11 straight in the process while they struggled without Durant. 

Any Nets fan worth their salt will remember that time and how much of an impact it had on what turned into a disappointing season. Now the Nets face a similar predicament without the franchise’s best player for at least two weeks, but this time around Brooklyn has the ability to hold the line while Durant is on the mend. 

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The biggest difference between last season’s scenario and this year’s is the fact that the Nets have Kyrie Irving available to them. Last year when Durant went down, Irving had been limited to playing only on the road due to COVID vaccine mandates in New York City. 

The Nets had been in effect running two different lineups depending on where they were playing and Brooklyn never had the chance to develop the consistency they had needed, which was an issue for a better part of the season. Now the Nets have been able to cultivate a unit that has gelled quite nicely over the last month-plus and that will help keep the Nets from falling off the same cliff. 

Irving has been averaging 26.0 points per game this year and shooting nearly 50% from the field. Additionally, since his return from an eight-game suspension, the Nets have gone 20-4, are first in offensive rating and second in net rating. 

Brooklyn has been highly efficient at both ends of the floor and they have shown they know how to spread out their scoring on several occasions over the past month. 

The Nets know what an asset Durant is to their team and how his play — or absence — impacts their season. There is no downplaying just how important he is to this team. 

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Without Durant, the Nets will need others to step up, including Ben Simmons, and they’ll require their bench players to be able to hold down the fort during the stretches when Irving is on the bench. 

Head coach Jacque Vaughn has brought a plethora of stability to the organization since he took the helm in November. And unlike last season, the Nets are in a much better spot to weather the next few weeks without Durant. 

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