Saturday, October 23, 2021

Kevin Durant pulled from Nets game amid COVID-19 concerns to end strange night

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Kevin Durant was a last-minute scratch from the starting lineup, then inserted into Friday night’s Brooklyn game late and finally pulled for good, all due to COVID-19 contact tracing. It’s not the first time the Nets star has missed time for coronavirus protocols, and he could again.

The NBA uses the term health and safety protocols, but in essence, somebody that Durant came into contact with tested positive for coronavirus. And that ensuing contact played havoc with the Nets’ game against visiting Toronto — and may have lingering impact going forward as well, if Durant has to quarantine.

Durant had COVID-19 in May, after the 2019-20 NBA season had been suspended but before either the Orlando bubble or his return from Achilles surgery.

Then last month Durant ended up having to observe a seven-day quarantine and miss three straight games — Utah, Philadelphia and at Memphis — due to exposure to someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Durant has been testing negative for COVID-19, and has recently tested positive for antibodies. But since the league’s COVID-19 protocols don’t differentiate between players who have antibodies and those that don’t, Durant wasn’t exempt and ended up having to sit out.

That could come back to haunt the Nets again. Durant had been slated to start Friday against Toronto, but Brooklyn announced at 7:38 p.m. — about two minutes before the lineups were announced — that he wouldn’t be available to start.

Kevin Durant playing against the Raptors before exiting because of health and safety protocols.AP

Durant himself didn’t get another COVID test. There were additional tests for whomever he came in contact with, along with clarifying the contact tracing procedures for this instance with the NBA. The league eventually made the call and determined he was cleared to play, and he checked into the game by replacing James Harden with 4:13 left in the first quarter and Brooklyn down, 26-17.

Still, Durant’s night didn’t last long: 19 minutes, to be exact.

Durant, who also picked up a pair of charges and got whistled for his fifth foul chasing down that loose ball with 9:06 left in the third quarter. Nets coach Steve Nash challenged the call and got it overturned, but Durant — who’d gone to the bench — ended up sitting out the rest of the game for the health and safety protocols.

In the end, Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists. It was the first time he’s failed to crack double figures since Feb. 28, 2017, when he logged just 1:33 for Golden State. It remains to be seen if Durant will have to quarantine again, or for how long.

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