Kevin Durant's status has been one of the great mysteries of the NBA's plan to finish the season at Walt Disney World. For months he said nothing definitive on the subject, so speculation grew rampant on the possibility that, with several extra months of recovery time, he could take the floor for the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando. Nets GM Sean Marks even in May. But on Friday, Durant confirmed that he would not be returning to play for the Nets at Disney.
"My season is over," Durant told The Undefeated's Marc Spears. "I don't plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season."
Should the NBA kick off the 2020-21 season on Dec. 1, as is the league's , Durant will have missed nearly 18 months in recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals. The typical recovery timeline for such an injury is approximately one year, but the coronavirus pandemic changed the landscape significantly enough to alter Durant's path back. Not only was he infected with COVID-19, but the pandemic at large limited his access to rehab facilities, Nets personnel and other essential elements of recovery.
Fellow Brooklyn star Kyrie Irving is also recovering from a major injury. He had shoulder surgery in March, and according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, he suggested during the NBPA call Friday that he may travel to Orlando as an inactive player in order to support his teammates, indicating that his season is over as well.
The Nets currently lead the Orlando Magic by 0.5 games for the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and hold a six-game lead over the No. 9 Washington Wizards. That functionally creates a two-game buffer between the two, as the No. 9 seed will be able to force a play-in against No. 8 if they are within four games of them after the eight regular-season games each team will play at Disney. Brooklyn owes its first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it is protected if the Nets miss the playoffs.
Brooklyn has championship aspirations for the 2020-21 season. As tempting as a potential run in the wide-open Disney playoffs might appear, protecting Durant's long-term health is simply too important to those aspirations to risk putting him out there early. We'll see Durant and Irving team up in Nets uniforms, but now we know that it won't be this season.