NEW YORK – Before the Nets kick off the season against the Warriors, Golden State manager Steve Kerr sat down to watch a movie by his former player Kevin Durant. He teased Brooklyn’s preseason game against Boston and played Durant’s first competitive game since tearing the Achilles in June 2019.
“I didn’t know what to expect as it was really a year and a half since his last game,” said Kerr. “But I couldn’t tell the difference between seeing 18 months ago and seeing the other night.”
Durant has stayed away from sweeping edicts, but Kerr got a front-row seat for Durant’s dominance on Tuesday when he scored 22 points in a 125-99 win over his former team.
And this time it wasn’t a pre-season warm-up.
“I think we had a solid first start,” said Durant after the game. “So we want to build on that. I was looking forward to getting out of here and getting a ‘W’, and I was glad we could get out and finish the job.”
Durant emptied the midrange speakers Andrew Wiggins, raised for one-handed strikes, threaded the ball through the defenders to find it DeAndre Jordan splashed at the edge and in 3s. While he had no minute limit, coach Steve Nash said ahead of the game that he would be “thoughtful” with Durant’s playing time. It landed on the floor for 25 minutes.
Along with his rating, Durant had 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. He shot 7-of-16 from the field and did not miss the free-throw line in seven attempts. Durant said he didn’t feel like he had to prove he could reach his level of play in 2019 to make a point.
“I don’t think I have to show anyone anything,” said Durant. “I’m just going to get out there and just mature … So I don’t feel like I have to prove myself, but I want to go out there and be able to do whatever Coach tells me on the floor. “
Warrior Star Stephen Curry could sum up that he faced his former teammate in one word: “Terrible.”
“With KD out there – he looked perfectly healthy the way he looked, confident in his body, so it was good to be obvious from a health standpoint,” Curry said. “It means a lot to get rid of such an injury.”
With Durant and Kyrie Irving Brooklyn led the way and picked up speed quickly. The Nets took the lead 18-8 in the first quarter after Durant rose towards the basket and delivered a significant dunk. He quickly picked up 10 points in the first quarter and Irving, who hasn’t played basketball since February after a shoulder injury, led the team with an early 17 points.
Irving, who scored almost unbelievably low 3-point points and showed his striking, characteristic ball handling, finished the race with 26 points at team level.
Irving said after the game that he was encouraged by the game but has bigger goals for the season. He said at times in his career that he was “just tempted to play” hero “basketball”.
This season he’s trying to focus more on collective team goals.
“As a young player,” said Irving, “you think it’s great to get a bunch of points, a bunch of things done, and a bunch of awards. I’ve definitely looked at those things, and now I really don’t. ” I know that I am culturally validated. That’s all that counts. I don’t need an All-NBA, I don’t need an MVP. I just want the championship with a great team that I can look back on in history and say, “We did it our way and we had fun.”
Neither Durant nor Irving played in the fourth quarter.
When Durant went to the bench at the end of the third quarter after his night out, he sat up every teammate and coach and grinned as he walked from the front row of folding chairs to his second row seat. He stared at the scoreboard as if recording the numbers behind his return that were being displayed and pulled his gray warm-up shirt over his head.
With Irving by his side, Durant watched her teammates build Brooklyn’s lead. At one point in the fourth quarter, the networks had risen by more than 30. Durant clapped and handed more high fives, the next step in his comeback was complete.
ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.