Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury during the Brooklyn Nets‘ 102-101 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday night, but the team appears to have dodged a bullet.
There’s a significant difference between a two-week absence and a six-week layoff, but with how red-hot the Nets have been in recent weeks, they’ve moved within one game of the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. If a Durant injury were to occur, it’s better it happen now than in the spring, when Brooklyn is preparing for the playoffs.
Fans shouldn’t expect the Nets (27-13) to overtake the Celtics (28-12) with Durant in street clothes, but if Kyrie Irving is able to shy away from too much off the court drama and shoulder the load for however long “KD” is out for, Brooklyn shouldn’t have a problem staying comfortably near the top of the East. At the halfway point of the 2022-2023 regular season, the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks (25-14) look to be the only other title contenders in the conference, though the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-15) and Philadelphia 76ers (24-15) seem certainly capable of making a deep playoff run too.
Outside of that top group in the conference, coach Jacque Vaughn’s group should be able to hang with the rest of the teams in the conference. Fortunately, the Nets don’t have to play again until Thursday, but when they return to action, they’ll get a huge test at home when they face Boston at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Brooklyn has 18 more games until the All-Star break in February (including Thursday’s tilt). They’ll face the improving, yet still inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder (18-22) on Sunday before going on a five-game road trip from Jan. 17 through Jan. 25 with very winnable games against the San Antonio Spurs (13-27) and Utah Jazz (20-23), as well as more difficult battles with the Phoenix Suns (20-21), Golden State Warriors (20-20) and 76ers.
Both the Suns and Warriors have had underwhelming first halves and could still be without their own superstars in Devin Booker (groin injury) and Stephen Curry (shoulder) come their matchups with the Nets. Phoenix has lost six in a row since Booker went down and Golden State has gone 6-5 without Curry.
Durant has had a handful of devastating leg injuries over his future Hall of Fame career, but early indications are that this won’t be one of them. For however long the 12-time All-Star is sidelined, the Nets should be okay.