After their blockbuster summer of 2019, we'll finally get to see the Brooklyn Nets' master plan in action this season. Both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are finally healthy and will return to the court where they'll get to play together for the first time with their new team.
But while they are now 100 percent and ready to go for opening night, the Nets won't be throwing caution to the wind. New coach Steve Nash said during a press conference on Tuesday that there's no specific load management plan in place right now, but it's "unlikely" that either superstar will be playing all 72 games.
Nash's full quote:
I would say there's no plan in place, but it's probably unlikely that they both play 72 games. It's been such a layoff for both of them, an in particular, Kevin with coming off one of the toughest injuries to deal with as a basketball player. We have to be very careful with him and his adaptation process back into the game. Kevin's done everything you could've ever asked to put himself in this position. He is truly a gift for all of us with not only his talent but his love for the game and the joy he brings in the building every day. Perhaps we have to protect him from himself in a way because he brings so much joy and passion to the sport. He's so eager and hungry after such a long layoff in his prime. He's done all the hard work, and he's put himself in this position, and now we have to make sure that it's sustainable adaptation and that he's able to stay the course and play the long game.
This, obviously, is the right way to approach things. As Nash mentioned with "the long game," the Nets' goal is to compete for a championship. To do that they need both Durant and Irving on the floor and operating as close to 100 percent as possible in the playoffs. If that means sacrificing some games in the regular season, that's an easy call.
At the same time, they can't be too cautious. Durant also spoke to the media on Tuesday and touched on finding a balance. Though he understands that the franchise has his best interests in mind, he wants to just go out and play, rather than focusing on trying not to get hurt again.
"Yeah, it's just try to play and try not to worry about it," Durant said. "If it happens, it happens. Sometimes when you tend to focus too much on not getting injured, you probably go out there and get injured. So I just try to go as hard as I can and live with the results."
Durant spoke about the difficulty of the rehab as well, saying he had to relearn how to walk after surgery. "I've been through surgeries and injuries before, but the longest recovery I had was three months," Durant said. "But the first phase of the Achilles was three months long, and you couldn't walk or run. You had to use a scooter. So I think those milestones of reaching — like, learning how to walk, learning how to run and jump again and getting used to certain movements again, I think that's underestimated."
While it's fantastic news that Durant and Irving are healthy, and it will be awesome to see them play together at long last, these quotes are a reminder that this is still something of a work in progress. Between the challenges that COVID-19 will present, and managing the returns of two stars from lengthy absences, it might be a while before we see the Nets at full strength.