5:31 PM ET
NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant is expected to return Thursday night against the Miami Heat after missing a month and a half of action because of a sprained left MCL.
Durant, who was not listed in Wednesday’s injury report for the first time since suffering the inj in a Jan, 15 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, will provide a huge lift for a team that went 5-16 in his absence.
Without Durant on the floor, coupled with the timing of trading James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a package of Ben Simmons (who has yet to play as he continues to deal with a back issue), Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two future first round picks — along with the ongoing absence of Kyrie Irving in home games because of the New York City vaccination mandate — the Nets have slid all the way to 31-30 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference heading into Thursday’s game. It’s a sharp decline for a team that was at or near the top of the standings prior to Durant’s injury, as the All-Star forward played like a strong MVP candidate before the knee injury.
“He’s going to come back and impact the game every way possible,” Drummond said prior to Monday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors. “He’s a threat both offensively and defensively. I think with our chemistry together on the floor it’s going to make it very difficult for teams to pick their poison, with who they want to guard, along with Kyrie, Seth [Curry] and when Ben comes back. And we go on the list of our roster, we have a lot of threats.”
Durant returned to practice right after the All Star break and has been around his team, and on the bench, a lot more over the last couple weeks. His availability will give the struggling group a big emotional lift with 19 regular season games remaining.
“He doesn’t look hurt to me,” Nets guard Bruce Brown said with a smile, when asked about Durant’s rehab progress earlier this week. “I’m going to be honest. He looks good.”
Source: ESPN NBA