Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant is off the NBA’s injury report and will make his return against the Miami Heat on Thursday (7:30 ET, NBA League Pass).
The 12-time All-Star has been sidelined since January with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. On Wednesday, the Nets tweeted a picture of Durant with a caption “The return.”
Durant told reporters at Thursday’s shootaround that he plans to play and he’s looking forward to helping the team.
“I feel energized,” Durant said, per ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I feel grateful for the opportunity to play. It sucks being out and not being around the team. I felt bad not being able to help and contribute and try to turn some things around for us. But get an opportunity tonight and hopefully moving forward where I can inject what I do into this team and it hopefully it provides some good results.
“I don’t look at myself as that, as a savior. But I know what I can do and how much I can help this team and what we’re missing as a group, but I’m not trying to go out there and win a game by myself tonight or make it all about me. I just try to go out there and help and be a good teammate and do what I do. I know what I bring to the table and try to do it to the best of my abilities.”
The news brings Brooklyn one step closer to having its three best players on the floor together. Ben Simmons, who was acquired at the trade deadline, is still preparing for his debut with the franchise but is currently dealing with back soreness. Kyrie Irving remains ineligible to play in home games, but that could change if New York City mayor Eric Adams relaxes the city’s indoor vaccine mandate.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, has gone 3-15 in its last 18 games. Additionally, Brooklyn is 5-16 since Durant sprained his MCL. The Nets were 27-15 at the time, second in the East. Durant is averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game and was leading the league at the time of his absence. But, he would now rank third behind Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo if he had played enough games to qualify.
Watching the Nets tumble in the East standings was difficult for Durant to stomach as he healed up.
“It was eating at me that I couldn’t go out there and perform to take some pressure off the guys and the organization, but I’m proud of how everybody just kept pushing and kept coming to work every day, kept grinding,” he said, per ESPN. “We know how crazy this business is — anything can happen. So we all have to be prepared and still come to work every day as professionals and I like how we did that.”
Durant was hurt in a Jan. 15 victory over New Orleans, when teammate Bruce Brown was knocked backward and fell into his knee. Brooklyn was only a half-game behind Chicago for the East lead at that point.
Coach Steve Nash said when the Nets returned from the All-Star break that he expected Durant to return within the next 3-4 games. Durant has missed all four since, with the Nets losing three.
“We are cutting it close. There’s under 20 games left in the season, but that’s the situation we’re in, that’s the circumstances we’re in,” Durant said. “So what? We got to go out there and figure it out.
The Nets are eighth in the Eastern Conference at 32-31 and have approximately five weeks to climb up the standings. If the regular season ended today, Brooklyn would be in the Play-In Tournament.
“We know what the standings are,” Durant said. “We know everybody’s telling us every day how far we’re dropping and where we may end up, constantly telling us the situation we’re in. But we understand that and know that each day is important so we’re focused on tonight and just keep plugging away.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.