Kevin Durant had COVID-19 last March, yet he has been one of the players most impacted by the league's preventative measures against it so far this season. The Brooklyn Nets star missed three games in January because of the league's health and safety protocols and has been ruled out of Saturday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said Durant will be able to rejoin the team on Friday, a day before Brooklyn is set to face off against his former team, the Golden State Warriors, on Feb. 13.
The reason for the nearly weeklong quarantine is due to Durant traveling to and from the practice facility with a team employee three separate times on Friday, with neither of them wearing masks. The team employee reportedly tested positive for the virus.
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This comes after Durant went through one of the strangest sagas of the season on Friday night during the team's game against the Toronto Raptors. He underwent contact tracing that prevented him from starting, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews. This is where things get complicated. Durant was then allowed to enter the game midway through the first quarter, marking his first appearance off of the bench as an NBA player.
It was reported that he did not need to undergo further testing, but someone he came into contact with did. Prior to the game, Durant traveled to and from the practice facility with a team employee three different times on Friday, with neither of them wearing masks. The team employee tested positive for the virus, which is why Durant was held out of the start of the game. However, he was then cleared, played a good chunk of the game, and then was pulled out of the game during the third quarter due to the league's health and safety protocols because that person registered a positive test. The NBA released the following statement explaining the situation.
"Kevin Durant has tested negative three times in the last 24 hours, including two negative PCR tests today. However, someone he interacted with this afternoon subsequently had an inconclusive test return shortly before the game. Durant was initially held out of the game while that result was being reviewed. 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. During the game, a positive result was returned for the person Durant interacted with this afternoon. Once that test was confirmed positive, out of an abundance of caution, Durant was removed from the game, and contact tracing is underway to determine if he was in fact a close contact of the positive individual."
Durant criticized the statement and the league's handling of the situation as a whole on Twitter.
The NBA's health and safety protocols make no distinction between players who have already had COVID-19 and those who haven't. If rules are violated, players are held out as a precaution against spreading the virus. The Nets, as a team, have not had any games postponed because of the coronavirus, nor have any of their best players missed significant court time because of the virus this season.
Durant's absence forced the Nets to start Bruce Brown in his place against a suddenly resurgent Raptors team that has won seven of its last 11 games after starting the season at the bottom of the standings. The Nets entered Friday tied with the Milwaukee Bucks two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets have had a turbulent start to the season thanks to Kyrie Irving's unplanned absence and the depth lost in the James Harden trade, so every regular-season game counts. Now, this uncertainty surrounding Durant only complicates their push for home-court advantage.