After a confounding night surrounding the status of Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant at the Barclays Center — which included him getting pulled out of the lineup in the pregame and third quarter for contact-tracing protocols — Durant won’t travel to Philadelphia for Saturday’s game and could be lost for multiple games for the second time in a month, sources tell ESPN.
Durant had come into contact with an associate on Friday who tested positive for the coronavirus Friday night, just hours after returning an inconclusive test shortly before the Nets’ 123-117 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
That inspired a most dramatic third-quarter scene: a Nets official informing Durant that he had to leave the bench for isolation, causing a flustered franchise star to trudge into the bowels of Barclays, where, presumably, he tweeted, “Free Me,” in the final minutes of the game.
The Nets informed the league office of the individual’s inconclusive test on Friday afternoon, and eventually were instructed to pull Durant out of pregame warmups. Nets general manager Sean Marks had been on the phone with the league office and delivered word down to the court.
Moments later, Steve Nash and his coaching staff found out that Durant would not be available to start the game.
Durant left the floor before the game, only to have the NBA clear him to return to the bench shortly after the start of the first quarter.
“Durant was initially held out of the game while that result was being reviewed,” the league statement said. “Under the league’s health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test.”
Before Durant left the court for the final time during the third quarter, he was sitting on the bench while officials reviewed a play in which he had picked up his fifth foul of the evening. The foul was overturned, but Durant never checked back in.
As the timeout came to an end, a team official told Durant he wouldn’t be able to continue in the game. Durant shook his head in apparent frustration. As he walked back through the tunnel, Durant threw his water bottle.
Durant, who played 19 minutes in the game, kept tweeting on Friday night after the game, questioning the league’s timeline and details.
On the heels of NBA stars LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo ridiculing the NBA and the NBPA’s plans for an Atlanta All-Star game on March 7, there emerged a late-week feeling of superstar revolt.
“I don’t understand the whole thing where he couldn’t play, then he came on the court, then they took him back,” Nets guard James Harden said. “There’s just a lot going on. There’s too much going on. It’s kind of overwhelming. We’re in the midst of a tough game, and these games are going to add up, especially if we’re talking about playoff seeding … to catch a rhythm. It’s overwhelming. It’s frustrating.”
“[Durant] feels the same way. Especially with him already having it and we get tested every single day. He’s been negative. So, I don’t understand what the problem is. The game should’ve been postponed, I feel like. If we’re talking about contact tracing. He was around all of us. So I don’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to play, then allowed to play, then taken back off the court. If that was the case, we should’ve postponed the game.”
Durant contracted the coronavirus in March and still had those antibodies in early January when he was lost for four games because of contact tracing. Four weeks later, Durant could be lost for a similar six-day stretch, sources said.
After Friday’s game, Nash said that he struggled, at times, to compartmentalize Durant’s absence during the game.
“I probably got a little distracted thinking about what it means long-term for our team,” Nash said. “We’ve already been playing guys a lot of minutes and if Kevin is not playing, are we gonna run the remaining guys too many minutes? So maybe I got a little distracted by the big picture.”
The Nets have road games on Saturday (Philadelphia) and Tuesday (Detroit) and return home on Wednesday (Indiana). The Nets start a West Coast trip next Saturday against Golden State.