Nets vs. Jazz: Kevin Durant has Made Presence Felt in Brooklyn

Kevin Durant is not with the Brooklyn Nets on their current five-game road trip, but the forward has maintained an active presence around the team throughout the season.

“Awesome. I just like hanging out with him and watching that ball go in every time,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson after a practice last week. “Even form shooting. It’s amazing. It’s like he’s just such a, it’s a thing of beauty watching him shoot. It’s great having him out there, he’s out here the whole practice and obviously got some form shooting in.”

As he rehabs the injured Achilles’ that he suffered during last season’s NBA Finals, Durant has not been distant. He said during media day sessions that he didn’t foresee anything different about his role around the team being any different than any other season, aside from the fact he wouldn’t be able to suit up and take the court on game nights.

“I will say every time he’s around, it’s definitely great for us,” said Spencer Dinwiddie. “We get to soak up knowledge and learn from him. Obviously, him and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) are the two best scorers of all-time, so to be able to have a guy like him on the roster who’s still your age or close to it, it’s just cool to be around.”

“I can't imagine how hard it is to be practicing with us every day, doing extra work and not being able to play,” said Jarrett Allen. “Every day he's out here giving 100 percent he's trying to make the team better.”

Durant has maintained a vocal presence, bringing 12 years of experience and a resume that includes an MVP award and three trips to the NBA Finals to bear.

“He gets in our coaches’ huddles,” said Atkinson. “Especially when it gets tough. So I think he picks his spots when to say something. I think he’s pretty quiet and when he has to say something, he’ll step up in the film room or in a timeout. He just has a really good feel for that. I could see someone coming in and being loud and boisterous, and he could be that guy. He has every right to be that guy with his knowledge. But I guess he's just stepped toward the right balance and interjected himself like that.”

In the way he has handled a unique situation — a perennial All-Star joining a new team without being able to play right away — Durant’s actions have given Atkinson some insight into one of his new stars, and found something that mirrors Brooklyn’s other newly arrived All-Star.

“The great thing about Kyrie and Kevin Durant, they’re all about basketball,” said Atkinson. “From my perspective, and maybe I’m not attuned to the outside world as much, and the drama, and I don’t read enough, but in this environment they are two guys that are obsessed with the game. I think that’s their comfort level, it seems like when they’re happiest when they’re in this environment and talking ball and talking about the league and shot selection and they’re in the film room, what we’re gonna do against blitz. It’s basketball, that’s their comfort zone, that’s where their heart lies. That’s an easy one for me and for them.”


Guard Caris LeVert has been listed as out for Tuesday night's game against the Jazz, per Nets PR, due to a sprained right thumb. LeVert is Brooklyn's second-leading scorer with 16.8 points per game, and also averages 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.


The Nets are going to find a stingy defense waiting for them in Salt Lake City, anchored by two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert at center. The Jazz lead the NBA in defensive rating as they take a 6-3 record into Monday night’s game against Golden State. They’re also first in defensive effective field goal percentage, limiting opponents to 46.1 percent efficiency. Gobert is fifth in the NBA in rebounding (13.0) and the Jazz are fifth in defensive rebounding (37.1) but 23rd in total rebounding (44.0). They don’t hit the offensive boards very hard.

Third-year guard Donovan Mitchell leads Utah with 24.8 points per game while shooting 48.8 percent overall and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Former Net Bojan Bogdanovic is averaging 21.8 points while shooting 45.5 percent on 6.9 3-point attempts per game and the Jazz are fifth overall in 3-point percentage (37.6). Bogdanovic was part of an offseason hunt for veteran reinforcements that included point guard Mike Conley and another former Net, center Ed Davis, who is currently sidelined with a fractured tibia.

The Jazz are 27th in the league in pace (97.8), a counter to Brooklyn’s No. 5 ranking (106.58). They’re also running pick-and-rolls on 29.4 percent of their possessions, the highest rate in the league, to free up Mitchell and Conley. Mitchell is sixth with 12.2 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game, and Conley is 12th (10.0). Only the Clippers, with Lou Williams and Kawhi Leonard both in the top five, have two players in the top 15. Utah is second in drives per game with 55.0 (the Nets are first with 56.2), a category they led the league in last season (55.1). Sidebar to that, the Jazz are 29th in the league with 19.3 assists per game.