Nets general manager Sean Marks has given a first clue that Kevin Durant’s Nets’ debut will take place not in Orlando’s fan-less venue Milkhouse Gym in mid-July but in Kings County, next season.
Speaking to second New Zealand outlet in the past few weeks, Marks praised Durant’s physical condition, but gave the indication a return for the 2020 playoffs wasn’t in the cards.
“I can tell you now he looks pretty darn good and I’m excited about him on the floor at Barclays in front of that fan base,’’ Marks said on Sky Sport NZ’s “The Pod” podcast. “But how do they mesh? How do they all play together? That’s the chess game, the intricacies of what a coaching staff does, what the management group does to put the right pieces around them.’’
Marks raised hope three weeks ago when he said a Durant return was “the $110 million question.’’
However, sources told The Post traction on a July 15 return for the season’s resumption is very slow — even if it would mark 13 months since he tore his Achilles tendon. Recovery times are usually 6-12 months.
Support for a Durant comeback when training camp opens in mid-to-late June is that he was already doing five-on-five contact scrimmages with several Nets reserves and player developmental coaches in early March.
However, the March 11 shutdown made it impossible for Durant to maintain or escalate that routine. While players are all in the same boat having had three months off when training camp opens in late June, Durant was not at the point of being ready for a game when everything stopped. Scrimmaging five-on-five was a key part of the rehab process at that stage, sources told The Post, and that ground to a halt.
Reading between the lines, Marks’ remarks also pointed to a desire for Durant to come back when a coaching staff is set and Kyrie Irving (shoulder surgery) is back. Jacque Vaughn is the interim coach and not expected to return next season — with Tyronn Lue, Mark Jackson and Tom Thibodeau figuring to be in the mix.
The KD-Kyrie signings were all about winning a championship. Durant’s return for the playoffs would be a delicious, inspirational treat to hungry New York basketball fans — and the NBA — but he’d probably have to play limited minutes and without Irving. The Nets are the seventh seed in the East.
“That’s what these guys are fighting for now,’’ Marks told the podcast. “If you talk to Kevin and Ky, they’ve both won —Kevin’s won two championships, Ky’s won a championship — so now, it’s how do we make this ours, how do we take this to the next level and who do we do it with? That’s a big part of their decisions.”
Last week, Durant gave a cryptic response, saying he’ll return when “it’s time.’’ His agent, Rich Kleiman, said on Joe Vardon’s Athletic podcast a return was “unrealistic”. KD buddy Jay Williams told The Post a return into the playoff cauldron wasn’t “fair to Kevin.’’
If KD doesn’t play in the 2020 playoffs the downside is he may not officially take the court until Chrismtas.