The Brooklyn Nets will be without their leading scorer, Kevin Durant, for at least the next week as a result of his exposure to a team employee who recently tested positive for COVID-19. As relayed by ESPN's Malika Andrews, Nets coach Steve Nash said that the 10-time All-Star and 2014 NBA MVP would not be eligible to rejoin the team until Friday.
That would put him on track to make his return to the hardwood on Saturday night against his former club, the Golden State Warriors, in San Francisco. In the meantime, his absence has been a point of controversy in league circles.
Durant was initially ruled out of his squad's Friday bout with the Toronto Raptors after having driven with the employee. Per ESPN's sources, the 32-year-old had been maskless in the car with the person at least three times earlier in the day. The two reportedly drove first to Brooklyn's practice facility for testing, and then back to Durant's home from testing before sharing a third ride to the game.
This was in direct violation of the association's COVID-19 guidelines, which bar players and/or staff members from commuting together without wearing protective face masks.
In spite of the incident, as well as an inconclusive test result from the employee, Durant was originally slated to participate in the contest; players aren't actually required to enter quarantine until a close contact has a confirmed positive test result. Nevertheless, he was pulled from pre-game warm-ups after Nets GM Sean Marks had spoken with league officials.
Shortly thereafter, Durant was allowed to return to game where he went on to play 19 minutes. However, during a third-quarter timeout, it was revealed that the staffer had since tested positive for coronavirus infection and Durant was subsequently pulled from the contest for a second time.
In the end, Brooklyn lost to Toronto and the unprecedented, back-and-forth situation with Durant threw him and his teammates for a major loop.
"I don't understand the whole thing where he couldn't play, then he came on the court, then they took him back," said fellow Nets star James Harden.
"There's just a lot going on. There's too much going on. It's kind of overwhelming. We're in the midst of a tough game, and these games are going to add up, especially if we're talking about playoff seeding... to catch a rhythm. It's overwhelming. It's frustrating."Durant, who previously contracted the coronavirus in March and still has antibodies, must continue to test negative in order to return next Saturday.
Earlier this season, Harden and Kyrie Irving also managed to run afoul of the league's COVID-19 protocols.