Tagged in: Brooklyn Nets

LaMarcus Aldridge cleared after heart concerns, re-signing with Brooklyn Nets

After retiring with heart concerns five months ago, seven-time All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge is returning to the Brooklyn Nets on a one-year, $2.6 million deal, his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, told ESPN on Friday.

Aldridge, 36, has been medically cleared by a number of doctors — including those both independent and Nets-affiliated — to make a return for his 16th season, Schwartz told ESPN.

“I retired in April based on what I believed was the wisest precautionary decision for my personal health at the time, but further testing and evaluation by several top physicians has convinced the doctors, myself and the Nets that I’m fully cleared and able to return to the rigors of the NBA,” Aldridge told ESPN in a statement.

“I loved my brief time with Brooklyn and am excited to rejoin the team in pursuit of a championship.”

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The Nets have a deep rotation of former All-Star frontcourt players, involving Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap.

ESPN reported Aug. 4 that Aldridge was considering a comeback, and his conversations on a return centered largely on the Nets. Aldridge played five matches with Brooklyn last season after agreeing to a contract buyout with the San Antonio Spurs.

Aldridge experienced an irregular heartbeat during a game versus the Los Angeles Lakers in April, and that soon led to a decision to announce his retirement.

“For 15 years I’ve put basketball first,” Aldridge wrote on Twitter at the time. “And now, it is time to put my health and family first.”

Aldridge signed with the Nets on March 28 after agreeing to a buyout with the Spurs, with whom he had spent the previous 5½ seasons. He played the first nine years of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers.

He has averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in his career.

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Kevin Durant signs 4-year, $198M extension with Brooklyn Nets, manager says

Kevin Durant has signed a multiyear extension with the Brooklyn Nets, the team announced Sunday morning.

The extension is for four years and worth the $198 million maximum, Durant’s longtime business manager and co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures and Boardroom, Rich Kleiman, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.

Durant declined his 2022-23 player option and extended off his $42 million salary for the 2021-22 season. Durant, who led Team USA to its fourth consecutive Olympics gold with a win versus France on Saturday, was spectacular in his return to the court this season.

He missed his first season in Brooklyn while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals in Toronto while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

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He wound up playing only 35 regular-season games for Brooklyn last season due to a combination of COVID-19 absences and a hamstring injury, but Durant averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists and made his 11th All-Star appearance.

Durant then averaged 34.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 12 playoff games for the Nets, including arguably the greatest performance of his legendary career — a 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double while playing all 48 minutes of a 114-108 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He then played all 53 minutes of Brooklyn’s overtime loss in Game 7, scoring another 48 points — which included a game-tying shot in the final second of regulation to force the extra session.

“Kevin is a transcendent talent who continues to drive and push this franchise and the game of basketball globally,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement Sunday. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with him for years to come.”

The Nets are currently projected to spend $296 million next season in payroll and luxury taxes, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

That is the second-biggest total in NBA history (trailing only next season’s Warriors), as the Nets try to win the franchise’s first NBA championship around Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Irving joined Durant in Brooklyn as free agents two years ago, and the Nets executed a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets to land Harden in January.

Irving and Harden will also be eligible to sign contract extensions with Brooklyn this offseason.

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Team USA rebounds from back-to-back losses with blowout of Argentina

Team USA stabilized itself by putting together its most complete match of its Olympic preparation schedule, defeating Argentina 108-80 on Tuesday night.

After back-to-back losses that saw the Americans struggle with offensive execution and defensive stamina, they showed more traction on both fronts 12 days before their Olympic opener in Tokyo.

“I thought we sustained our [stamina] pretty well,” Team USA manager Gregg Popovich said. “Against Australia we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for a half and then it dissipated for a half. Tonight, we maintained that pretty much throughout the game. Hopefully that’s a sign we’re getting better.”

Kevin Durant, the unquestioned engine of the national team’s offense, had shown some rust after taking some time off following the Brooklyn Nets’ seven-game series loss last month in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Like many of his Team USA teammates, he looked a little flat in the first two exhibitions, which both ended in unexpected defeat. He was just 10-of-26 shooting in those defeats to Nigeria and Australia.

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Durant came out with a purpose Tuesday, swishing a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession.

He scored eight points in the first quarter and ended with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

It was a similar story for Bradley Beal, who shot just 38% and averaged just seven points in the first two games while trying to regain rhythm. Beal made his first four shots, two of them 3-pointers, and ended with 17 points for easily his best game of the exhibitions.

“A sense of urgency is what we’re kind of preaching,” Beal said. “Today we got better, but there’s still a lot more we can improve on. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Despite it being the second game of a back-to-back and a comfortable victory, Popovich played Beal 30 of the game’s 40 minutes in an attempt to help him round into form.

Popovich cited conditioning as a reason the Americans faded down the stretch in the two losses. After a heavy calendar for most of the players over the previous 12 months, players taking time to rest was expected after their seasons ended, but it seems to have contributed to the slow start.

Tuesday’s game also featured a strong performance from Zach LaVine, a late addition to Team USA who has been building a case for more playing time this week. LaVine was in Popovich’s starting lineup for the Jayson Tatum, who sat out to rest a sore knee, and made a statement with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.

“Somebody’s got to take Tatum’s place,” Popovich said. “So you choose one, simple as that.”

LaVine, who has had more time off as the Chicago Bulls missed the playoffs, is one of the players who seems to be in better rhythm. He had a spectacular highlight dunk in the fourth quarter, rising over a defender and slamming it despite a foul.

It must be said the Argentinians, who came in ranked No. 4 in the world after taking the silver at the 2019 World Cup, were the weakest team the Americans have yet faced. They are 0-3 in the games at Mandalay Bay this week and are an older team. Former NBA player Luis Scola, who is 41, led them with 16 points.

A better test for Team USA’s development will come Friday in a rematch with the Aussies. It will come after two days off to allow for some practice and film work.

“The last thing we want to do is overwork people to the point where we get injuries, but the first priority is we have to get back in shape,” Popovich. “We’re going to continue to work hard like we need to. … Without the condition we can’t get this done.”

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James Harden (hamstring) struggles in 5-point return, but Brooklyn Nets win Game 5

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden was held to five points in his return to the starting lineup Tuesday night, but the Nets went on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108 in Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Brooklyn leads the series 3-2.

The decision to let Harden to play was made after he tested his right hamstring on the court before tipoff. He played 37 minutes and shot 1-for-10 from the field, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, and went scoreless in the first half. He added six rebounds, eight assists and four turnovers.

It was the first time Harden was available to play in a game since June 5, when he injured his hamstring in the first minute of Game 1 of the series. Since then, he has been dealing with what the team has called hamstring tightness.

“I’m not sure the level of risk,” head coach Steve Nash said before the game. “I think it is James’ decision. He wants to play. Ultimately, he wants to play. He’s been pushing.”

Harden participated in the Nets’ shootaround Tuesday morning with improvement in his hamstring, and that prompted the team to upgrade his status from doubtful to questionable for Game 5, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Nets are preparing to be without guard Kyrie Irving (right ankle sprain) for the rest of the series, sources said. The team hasn’t officially ruled Irving out beyond Game 5.

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Nash stated Sunday that the team would try to approach the injuries as isolated incidents and not let Irving’s ankle sprain rush Harden back to the floor before his hamstring is fully healed.

Still, Nash admitted Monday that Irving’s injury was a “driving” factor for Harden in pushing to return.

“He wants to play,” Nash said. “He wants to win a championship. He loves the playoffs and the ability to play this time of year. So, I think it’s been really difficult for him on how much he cares, how much time he puts in, how much effort he’s put in to get to this position.”

Irving was injured midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 in Milwaukee when he landed awkwardly on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot after making a layup over Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo crashed the paint in what was an attempt to help Holiday, who was the primary defender.

Irving remained on the ground for several minutes as Nash and the team’s athletic trainers attended to him. Eventually, Irving walked to the locker room without assistance but was limping. He left the arena in a walking boot and on crutches. An MRI on Monday confirmed Irving’s ankle sprain.

The Nets have battled injuries all campaign.

The Big Three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant played just eight games together in the regular season and six games together in the playoffs — including the game in which Harden was injured after just 43 seconds.

Harden missed 18 games in the regular season with a hamstring strain, and before that he missed two with hamstring tightness.

During warm-ups Tuesday, Harden was moving well as he shot, did cutting motions and threw passes to Jeff Green. Harden had protective kinesiology tape stretched over his right hamstring.

“We have to support him the best way we can,” Nash said of Harden, “and be an aid for him to figure this out, but it’s a tricky situation — but one that we are willing to go down with James. He’s just been unbelievable for us this year, and we want to support him.”

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Nets head to second round, beat Celtics 123-109 in Game 5

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden had just eight matches together in the regular season, few enough to wonder how good they could really be.

Five games versus Boston provided some answers — and a chance to keep making up for all their lost time.

“We just don’t want to take any of this time for granted,” Irving said. “This doesn’t happen too often kind of in our culture, in our history, where three of the best scorers to ever play the game are on one team.”

Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first postseason triple-double with Brooklyn, leading the Nets into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 123-109 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in Game 5.

Irving scored 25 points and Durant had 24 for the Nets, who will face the Milwaukee Bucks in their first appearance in the second round since 2014. The No. 2-seeded Nets will host Game 1 versus Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Saturday.

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“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Durant said. “I mean, he’s a two-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Despite their limited time together during the regular season, the Nets’ three superstars showed how potent they can be in this series, particularly when they combined for 104 points in Game 4.

“We weren’t even worried about the playoff run yet, we were just happy to be on the court together,” Harden said. “So it’s great to get one series out of the way and like I said, we’ll take tomorrow off and we’ll recoup and get ready for a tough Milwaukee team.”

Brooklyn was nowhere near as potent as Game 4, when it rang up 141 points. But a little explosive stretch here and there was good enough to wrap it up.

The finishing one came with the Celtics trailing by just eight with under eight minutes to play.

Durant then made a 3-pointer, Jayson Tatum turned it over and Irving nailed another 3 on the break, pushing it to 103-89 with 7:19 to play.

Evan Fournier scored but Harden answered with another 3 and Bruce Brown scored inside, an 11-2 burst in less than 90 seconds that broke it open at 108-91 midway through the fourth.

Tatum had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who made the Eastern Conference finals last year but went quickly with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker unavailable.

“Jayson continued to make plays. We didn’t do enough as a team. But he showed a lot of mettle this year,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated.

Fournier added 18 points and Romeo Langford had 17 starting in place of Walker, who missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury.

“It’s been a lot. Injuries on top of injuries. Guys not being able to play together. A lot of personal stuff. It’s life, things more important than basketball, but you’ve got to be professional,” guard Marcus Smart said.

The Nets were eager to avoid a return to Boston after a fan threw a water bottle at Irving after Game 4, but the clincher didn’t come easily.

The Celtics hung in the game, not letting the Nets build a double-digit lead until a 7-0 burst early in the second half made it 66-54. Boston recovered and trailed just 86-79 after Tatum made a jumper at the buzzer to end the third.

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Nets get 7 3s from Harris, rout Celtics 130-108 for 2-0 lead

Brooklyn is more than just its Big Three. There’s also Joe Harris and his 3s.

Even if a team can hold Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, it still has to stop the NBA’s most accurate 3-point shooter.

That’s a lot of problems to solve, and Harris understands why teams don’t make him the priority.

“I think it’s just sort of, this is the reality of the matter,” Harris said. “I mean, we have three of the best offensive players that really have ever played.”

Harris tied a franchise playoff record with seven 3-pointers, Durant scored 26 points and the Nets routed the Boston Celtics 130-108 on Tuesday night for a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Harris had a career playoff-high 25 points and Harden added 20 as the Nets unleashed their lethal offense after winning Game 1 largely with defense.

“Different games it’s going to be different guys,” Harden said. “Tonight it was Joe, next game, Game 3 it could be somebody else. So we’re just all locked in, we’re all on the same page and whatever it takes to win, we’re willing to do.”

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Game 3 is Friday in Boston, where the Nets will try to build on their first 2-0 lead in a series since they swept the New York Knicks in the first round in 2004.

This one might be headed toward the same result, with the Celtics unable to do much scoring in Game 1 or stop the Nets from doing tons of it in Game 2.

“We’ve got to be way better,” coach Brad Stevens said, listing a number of defensive problems the Celtics have to address.

“They exposed that because they were really good, but I was disappointed in how we played versus the other night.”

Marcus Smart scored 19 points and Kemba Walker had 17 for the Celtics. Leading scorer Jayson Tatum had only nine points on 3-for-12 shooting before leaving after just 21 minutes when he was poked in the right eye.

After the Nets scored just 16 points in the first quarter of Game 1, Harris had that by himself in the opening quarter of this one while going 4 for 4 behind the arc.

The Nets had started slowly in Game 1 and in the only game their Big Three played together late in the regular season, and on Monday coach Steve Nash stated he thought it might be a while before his three stars could walk on the court and be firing on all cylinders.

It was only a day later for Harris, who led the NBA in 3-point percentage at 47.5% this season.

Harris made three straight 3-pointers to extend a three-point lead to 25-13 and there was a little gasp from the crowd when he then stole the ball and dribbled down on a breakaway, as if he might pull up behind the arc. Instead, he went all the way for the layup and a 14-point lead.

It was 40-26 after one period and Harden made consecutive 3s to open the second. That made it a 20-point game and it was never close from there.

Walker said the Celtics have to look at the film to find opportunities they are missing.

“I know I missed a lot of passes myself that I could’ve made personally that I would definitely like to be better at,” he said. “So we’ve just got to be better.” Irving had 15 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Nets, who made 17 3-pointers.

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Bucks rally in 4th to beat Nets 124-118, clinch playoff spot

Milwaukee’s late-season schedule has given the Bucks plenty of chances to measure themselves against the two teams they’re chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.

The results have been encouraging.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and the Bucks used a fourth-quarter rally to defeat the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in three days, winning 124-118 on Tuesday night. This mini-sweep comes less than two weeks after the Bucks won two consecutive games from East-leading Philadelphia.

“I’m happy we were able to put on a show for our fans and able to build good habits in those games, but that’s all,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had 12 rebounds.

“They don’t mean nothing. Nobody’s going to remember these games when we’re in the playoffs.”

Brooklyn (43-23) lost its third straight to fall 1½ games behind Philadelphia (44-21) Milwaukee (41-24) clinched a fifth straight playoff appearance, but is third in the East, three behind Philadelphia and 1½ behind Brooklyn.

The Bucks are chasing their first NBA title since 1971.

They posted the NBA’s best regular-season record in 2018-19 and 2019-20, but lost in the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago and in the second round last year.

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That’s why they’re not making too much about their regular-season success versus the teams ahead of them.

After all, the Nets didn’t have James Harden for either of their two losses in Milwaukee. Philadelphia didn’t have All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing together in any of its matchups with Milwaukee.

If nothing else, these last two weeks have given the Bucks a confidence boost.

“It’s important to be playing well going down the stretch here,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Milwaukee blew a 10-point lead in the second half and trailed 103-97 with 10 minutes left, but it responded with an 18-1 run.

Brooklyn cut the margin to four with 1:02 left, but Antetokounmpo sank a pair of free throws and Jrue Holiday made a steal in the final minute to seal the triumph. Holiday had 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

“They got a nice groove going in the fourth, made shots, made plays,” said Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, who had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “You’ve got to give them credit.”

Kyrie Irving scored 38 points for the Nets, who got outrebounded 55-39.

Milwaukee’s Donte DiVincenzo had a career-high 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points. Khris Middleton had 23 points and seven rebounds.

“They were overall more physical than us on both ends of the floor,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. The Bucks’ fourth-quarter comeback followed their 117-114 Sunday afternoon victory over the Nets, also in Milwaukee.

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Durant, Nets beat Timberwolves 127-97 in rescheduled game

The show in Minnesota went on, the day after raw emotion from a fatal police shooting of a local Black man was too strong to play.

Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets made quick work of the Timberwolves, even if focus was harder to come by than usual.

Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting in his most productive performance in 2 1/2 months, as the Brooklyn Nets blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-97 on Tuesday afternoon.

“I felt like my wind and legs are getting up under me, each and every minute I’m playing,” stated Durant, who missed 23 matches with a strained hamstring until returning last week.

The game was rescheduled from the previous night, out of sensitivity to the community following the traffic-stop death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

Players from both teams wore black warmup shirts that read, “With liberty and justice for all,” with the last two words in all-caps for extra emphasis, and a moment of silence was held before tip-off.

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“All we can do is be here for each other physically, emotionally try to comprehend what guys are going through,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell said, adding: “I encourage everybody to go out there and do what you can physically do to make things better, not just speak about it.”

Anthony Edwards had 27 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played without Karl-Anthony Towns on the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death from COVID-19 complications. Towns decided to sit out and spend the time with his family.

Joe Harris pitched in 23 points for the Nets, who had 31 assists on 46 made baskets.

Missing James Harden (strained hamstring), Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) and LaMarcus Aldridge (non-COVID-19 illness), the Nets were in command from the jump and ahead by 23 points before the midpoint of the second quarter. They built their lead as big as 45 points early in the fourth quarter.

With Harden, Irving and Aldridge all out, Nash put Chris Chiozza and Nicolas Claxton in the starting lineup for the first time, the 17th and 18th different players to appear in the first five for the Nets in just 54 games this season. They have used 32 different combinations.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We’ve had a lot thrown at us this year,” coach Steve Nash said.

Durant played 27 minutes and had his highest points total since Jan. 31. “We’re trying to find that balance, and at least he had a good game and got some minutes on his legs,” Nash said.

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James Harden’s return for Brooklyn Nets short-lived due to ongoing hamstring tightness

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden played just four minutes before he was ruled out for the remainder of Monday night’s 114-112 victory versus the New York Knicks because of right hamstring tightness.

Harden’s brief return came after he missed the Nets’ past two games while dealing with the same tightness.

Before the match, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash stated Harden would not be on a minutes restriction and the team would monitor him throughout the night. “We definitely don’t want to wear him out,” Nash said before tipoff. “So we’ll try our best, which is very difficult to do sometimes. We’ll try to limit his minutes if we have the opportunity.”

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Nash reiterated both pregame and postgame that the imaging on Harden’s hamstring did not reveal structural damage, so the team looked to him and its training staff to decide when he felt well enough to play.

“So who knows — this may linger, it may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game,” Nash said. “But it’s just one of those things where the scan is clean, the strength tests are clean but he feels something, so we’re going to err on the side of caution.”

The Nets were already without Blake Griffin (injury maintenance), Kevin Durant (hamstring strain), Tyler Johnson (knee soreness) and Landry Shamet (ankle sprain).

Nash said that he does not anticipate playing Griffin in both halves of any remaining back-to-back games.

Harden, one of the frontrunners for league MVP, entered Monday’s game averaging 26.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 11.2 assists for the Nets.

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Kevin Durant unlikely to return for Brooklyn Nets this week, coach Steve Nash says

Kevin Durant will not play versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, and Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash stated he doubts Durant will play this week as he continues to rehab from a hamstring strain that has sidelined him for a month and a half.

Nash stated Sunday that Durant “looks good” and “is progressing” but “still needs to be monitored and still needs to get a certain amount of markers under his belt” before he returns to game action.

Durant last played on Feb. 13 versus the Golden State Warriors. Durant stayed back during Brooklyn’s three-game road trip to Portland, Utah and Detroit last week while he worked through what Nash deemed a “critical last part” of his rehabilitation.

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The Nets were also without Kyrie Irving and Landry Shamet on that trip. Irving, who was not with the team while he attended to a family matter, will play on Monday. Shamet, who has been treating a right ankle sprain, has been ruled out against the Timberwolves.

Nash stated he doesn’t think that Shamet will return to the lineup this week, either.

After the Nets host the Timberwolves, they face Houston on Wednesday and the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday — all of which Durant and Shamet are likely to miss, according to Nash.

Nash reiterated that he doesn’t believe Shamet’s ankle will be a “long-term thing,” while Durant still has a few more tests to pass in his hamstring recovery.

Initially, the Nets ruled out Durant for two matches, but further imaging revealed a more severe strain than the team initially thought.

Nash has said that they also have the luxury of not rushing Durant back because the team has continued to win. The Nets, Nash said, are prioritizing Durant’s long-term health in what they hope will be a deep playoff run.

“There’s still steps for him to take,” Nash said of Durant, “although he looks great, is progressing and will definitely be back with us. It’s just, I don’t think this week is likely.”

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