Sometime this Friday, we will probably know what the format of an NBA return-to-play will look like. The Board of Governors will talk via conference call Friday and presumably vote on Adam Silver’s plan. Until then, expect speculation on whether the league will play a few regular season games (maybe even an exhibition game or two); schedule some sort of play-in tournament to settle the final two playoff spots in each conference or go straight to the post-season. There’s even one scenario where the Nets would play the Lakers in the first round of a round robin tournament! Not to mention the issue of training camp. How long will players be given to get ready.
There will also be speculation in Brooklyn and elsewhere about whether Kevin Durant and/or Kyrie Irving will be active when the Nets arrive (presumably) at Walt Disney World next month and ready to play.
In an interview last week with Chris Grosso of Basic Thoughtonomics, Ian Eagle thinks the two are tied together, that Durant —and maybe to a lesser sense, Irving— want to see what the format looks like before they’ll decide either way. Presumably, an injured player wouldn’t want to jump immediately to the intensity of an NBA playoff run.
Asked if HE thought the two would return this truncated season, Eagle responded this way:
“I’m not sure whether Kevin Durant —or Kyrie Irving— can answer that at this point. Until we see what the mini-training camp looks like, and what the schedule would look like, it’s nearly impossible to say ‘Oh yeah, these guys are coming back’ OR ‘these guys aren’t coming back.’ I’ve heard very strong opinions on both ends…
“So all of this is great fodder but… its hard to say definitively how these guys are going to handle it until we see an actual schedule, a timeframe where you can put a plan into place.”
It appears from buzzy video clips of KD playing 3-on-3 and Kyrie’s cryptic Instagram post of his sneakers that both are, in not ready, then within range of getting there. In an interview with SkySport New Zealand last week. Sean Marks said “How does Kevin look when he comes back? I can tell you now he looks pretty damn good and I’m excited about him being on the floor at Barclays in front of that fan base.”
Eagle told Grosso that soon after there’s a format for a return-to-play, including training camp, he thinks there will be a come-to-Kevin moment.
“I do think that there’s aspect of this where KD and his people —and the Nets and their medical staff and their training staff will have to sit down and really weigh the positives and the negatives of coming back.
“Positives would be, ‘Okay, you’re back on the floor, you’re back in the competitive setting. Negatives potentially would be ‘is there a risk in any way, shape or form?’ The potential positive is avoiding a longer length of not playing at that level where … Right now, if they resume action, Chris, there’s a pretty good chance that they won’t start next season until December. And some are saying maybe not until Christmas. So the alternate possibility for KD is that he wouldn’t play until 18 months after his injury. That’s a long time. That’s a long time for an athlete.”
In addition, Eagle thinks the prospect of KD playing is tied to the prospect of Irving playing.
“[T]hey’re going to have to gauge whatever it is he wants, what makes the most medical sense and I do think that Kyrie and KD are connected on this, that Kyrie is dealing with an injured shoulder.”
Kyrie hasn’t said anything about his return to play, but you could make an argument that Durant and his team are indeed looking at the wait-and-see scenario the often well-informed Eagle laid out. In essence, they have dissed the prospect, talking about how “unrealistic” a return would be , but not completely dismissed it.
A little more than a week ago, Durant laid out how he feels about a return in talking to Lil Wayne on his Young Money radio show.
“It is what it is man. Everybody waiting on me to come back. A lot of emotions involved. So I get it. I understand the business now. But I’ll be back when it’s time.”
Rich Kleiman has never deterred from his storyline that any discussion is “unrealistic,” saying it again last week… but noting there might come a time “to have that conversation.”
“I promise you, Kevin and I have not talked about that. And I know it sounds crazy, but my assumption has been that it wasn’t very realistic. I know when the time will be right to have that conversation but it just hasn’t been that time and it just doesn’t feel like it’s needed”.
Similarly, on Thursday —the same day the Eagle interview was posted, Tim Capstraw appearing with Mike Francesca said it’s “99.9 percent” that KD doesn’t play.
Still, Brian Windhorst said Monday that he thinks if the Nets learn they’ll be playing the Lekrs, things can change.
“If they’re playing the Lakers first round, and they learn that this week… I’m just saying. I know what’s said, I know what Woj said. All I’m saying is, circumstances change.”
Eagle, though, thinks the calendar may tell the story…
“To me, I just look at the calendar more than anything else. Kevin Durant suffered his injury in the NBA Finals last year — serious Achilles injury. Usually takes about 11 months to recover from that and feel yourself again.
“Now we are past the 11 month mark and we are very close to the 12-month mark…
“And until the Nets can truly see how Kevin is doing and check in on the rehab, and have legitimate face-to-face conversations —not just facetime calls and Zoom’s, and texts— look each other in the eye and say, ‘hey, this is what I want, this is what I want to do,”
Well, we’ve waited this long…