Brooklyn Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant is getting close to a return, and it could happen this week. When exactly Durant steps back onto the court, however, remains up in the air. The superstar forward has been sidelined since Feb. 13 with a hamstring strain, but after missing 22 consecutive games, he's about ready to rejoin his teammates in game action.
On Monday, Nets coach Steve Nash said he's hopeful Durant returns this week, but it's "not set in stone," per The AP's Brian Mahoney. Durant was held out of Brooklyn's 114-112 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night, so his earliest possible return could be Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. After that, the Nets face the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday and the Minnesota Timberwolves the following Monday.
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"I think it's just wait and see," Nash said Saturday, via ESPN. "But it does look positive that this week sometime, there's a high probability he can return."
The hamstring injury Durant suffered was initially considered minor, but scans revealed more bleeding than the team initially expected. The Nets have been as cautious as possible with setting expectations for Durant's return, as they'll want him to be 100 percent healthy before stepping back into a game.
"Initially, I didn't think it was that bad, just a regular strain," Durant said of the injury. "Then we got a second scan and they say it was a little deeper than that. It was one of those things where I'm not feeling a ton of pain, but you don't want to force one of these injuries and make it worse."
Rushing Durant back before he's fully healed would only further risk the chance at re-injuring himself, and with his injury history, being cautious is the best way to go. Brooklyn also has championship aspirations this season, with a loaded team that recently picked up Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market to go along with Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Having K.D. fully healthy before the playoffs start will be a significant key to this team's success in the postseason, as he puts them over the edge of being favorites to win the NBA Finals. However, in Durant's absence, the Nets have fared incredibly well, a credit to their immense talent on the roster, as the team has gone 18-3 with Harden and Irving carrying more of the offensive load. But this team is on another level with Durant in the mix as the superstar forward is averaging 29 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Brooklyn currently sits first in the Eastern Conference at 54-16 -- a half game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers. But if Durant's return is just around the corner -- and he continues to play at an elite level like he displayed earlier this season -- the Nets could put some distance between them and the Sixers to lock up the top seed in the conference and home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.