The Brooklyn Nets suffered a tough blow due to Kevin Durant‘s knee injury, forcing him to miss the next four to six weeks. Durant’s absence puts tremendous pressure on the rest of the roster to fill his massive void. Beyond that, it puts Kyrie Irving into a highly familiar opportunity.
Kevin Durant will miss 4-to-6 weeks with knee injury
On Saturday night, the Nets comfortably pushed past the New Orleans Pelicans to remain a half-game behind the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference’s top spot.
However, the win came with Kevin Durant suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee that will force him to miss four to six weeks. It occurred in the second quarter of the contest after teammate Bruce Brown stumbled and fell into his knee during a play, leading Durant to check himself out of the game and head straight to the locker room.
The star forward has been putting together an MVP-caliber campaign behind a league-best 29.3 points per contest while shooting 52.0% from the floor and 37.2% from beyond the arc. He tied a franchise record with 12 straight games with at least 25 points while ranking third with 15 games with at least 30 points.
Before Durant underwent an MRI on Sunday morning, head coach Steve Nash voiced optimism regarding the challenging situation.
“Of course, it would be tough to lose him,” Nash said after the game via ESPN. “No one wants to see that and we’ll obviously hope for the best outcome, but regardless of the outcome, we have to continue to work, build and grow and get better and compete.”
As the Nets move forward for at least the next month without Durant, it opens a familiar door for Kyrie Irving.
Kevin Durant’s knee injury just handed Kyrie Irving an all-too-familiar opportunity
For much of the 2021-22 season, Durant’s stellar play has masked much of the Nets’ shortcomings and Kyrie Irving’s absence.
Brooklyn is without their leading factor, putting Irving and Harden to pick up the slack for the foreseeable future. Although the former is only playing part-time due to New York’s vaccine mandate, he will have the opportunity to play a significant portion of games as the Nets are playing 11 of their next 14 contests on the road.
Irving recently suffered an ankle injury in the Jan. 12 blowout win over the Chicago Bulls but should be good to go for the upcoming stretch. His availability as a part-time player has drawn much criticism. Still, he has a chance to make a significant impact, especially with Durant out to help keep the Nets more than afloat.
The 29-year-old will be playing an extremely familiar role as either the first or second scoring option next to Harden. Last season, the Nets had success with that combination, winning 16 out of 19 games. Irving has produced in his limited action, averaging 17.7 points on 45.8% shooting in three appearances, including a pair of 20-point outings.
All that puts on the table an opportunity for Irving to quiet some of the noise behind his performance.
The Nets need Kyrie Irving to vie for an NBA title
As much as the Nets choose to ignore the bigger picture, Irving’s status for the remainder of the season will be a lingering matter.
The star point guard sits as a part-time player due to his unvaccinated status, which hasn’t impacted the Nets significantly due to Durant’s brilliance and Harden’s stable play beside him. However, Brooklyn needs Irving to push through the stacked Eastern Conference filled with formidable opponents well beyond the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, such as the Bulls, Miami Heat.
Ultimately, Irving must be a prominent factor if the Nets hope to make a serious push toward the 2022 NBA title.