Nets Notes: Kevin Durant's Brooklyn Debut

Everybody was waiting to see Kevin Durant back on the court for a regular season NBA game. This goes beyond Brooklyn. This was possibly the best player in the world, a future Hall of Famer, returning after missing a full season.

Two impressive preseason games built the anticipation, and on opening night, Durant delivered with 22 points in 25 minutes during Brooklyn’s 125-99 win over his former team, the Golden State Warriors. He shot 7-for-16 and added five rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

“It’s a big, big difference in taking 18 months away from the NBA and coming back into the NBA with everything he’s gone through,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “He looks like Kevin, he plays like Kevin, but I don’t want to start making expectations of him until he gets going and gets some games and some rhythm under his belt and adapts to playing three in four nights and playing almost every other night for a stretch. That’s the next step for him. We’ve got to just take it day-by-day with him. He’s done everything he could possibly do to put himself in this position, and he’s here because of his hard work and determination. I just don’t want to necessarily expect that every night’s going to be amazing. His off nights are amazing for most people in the league, but he needs time to adapt still.”

The show started right from the tip. Durant drained a top-of-the-key 3-pointer, then popped in a short pull-up. He drew a foul on another little jumper for a three-point play, then drove baseline for a dunk and an 18-8 lead that sent the Warriors into a timeout. Five minutes in, Durant had 10 points while making four of his first six shots.

The Nets just rolled from there, putting up 40 points in the first quarter and eventually leading by as many as 38 points. Through a pair of preseason games and Tuesday night’s opener, the Brooklyn offense led by Durant and Kyrie Irving has looked lethal.

Despite the condensed preseason, Durant has been playing steadily with teammates for months, through regular offseason pick-up games, and that has likely contributed to the easy early flow of things. But aside from the season off, this is still Durant’s first season with a new team. To both he and Nash, the process is still in its infancy, for Durant, and the group.

“I'm just learning my teammates tendencies, where they like the ball, just their routines. Just getting to know my teammates a little bit more,” said Durant. “I think with each game as we continue to build we'll get more and more comfortable with each other. That's probably the thing I've learned the most, trying to learn each guy's favorite spot on the floor and what they like to do. So that's going to take some time to get everyone downloaded.”

“I think he has an eye for the long game. He realizes a lot of steps still to be taken,” said Nash. “I think he is enjoying the process, I think he’s really grateful to be back, he’s missed it tremendously with the amount of love and passion he has for the sport. He’s attacked his rehab that way, so I think he’s just enjoying his health, his ability to play in the NBA again, and the reason he’s not getting carried away with all the chatter of where is he, who is he, what is he after this injury, he’s just trying to find his rhythm and his game again. Obviously, he’s playing very, very well; but that’s just not really his style. He’s a great teammate, great team player, wants to make the right plays. He’s not out here trying to win a scoring title, he’s just trying to play the right way. We’re fortunate to have a player of his caliber but also a player of his character.”

With that long view in mind, Tuesday night’s win was just one game, even with all the anticipation that came with it.

“Just another experience underneath the belt,” said Durant. “I think more and more of these experiences with my teammates in a newer environment, all of us in a new environment, I think it’s only gonna make us better as we move forward. We just want to keep plugging away every single day and each player get better individually, and we’ll see what happens after that.”