Nets discuss 'bizarre' Kevin Durant contact tracing situation: 'If that was the case, the game should have been postponed'

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Alex Smith
·4 min read
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Kevind Durant layup vs. Raptors
Kevind Durant layup vs. Raptors

During Friday’s game between the Nets and Toronto Raptors, the play on the floor unfortunately was a secondary storyline to the strange scenario revolving around Kevin Durants availability.

Just minutes before tipoff of what turned out to be a 123-117 Raptors’ win, Durant was deemed unavailable to start due to health and safety protocols. He was then cleared to play late in the first quarter, but was then ruled out later in the third quarter.

The NBA eventually explained the situation, saying that Durant had interacted with someone on Friday afternoon whose COVID test was inconclusive. When the test later returned a positive result, Durant was removed for contact tracing “out of an abundance of caution.”

Durant wasn’t able to speak to reporters following the loss, but did send out a series of tweets, including one saying “Free me” and another criticizing the league’s reasoning.

After the game, the Nets expressed their confusion for how this instance was handled, with head coach Steve Nash also saying that Durant likely wouldn’t be traveling with the team for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia.

“I’ll try to explain this from what I know. I don’t believe he’ll come to Philly, but I don’t think, necessarily, they’ve decided,” said Nash. “It’s just a contact tracing procedure and I think it’s to be determined how much time he’ll have to miss, but we’re just gathering information still at this point.”

Nash also admitted that he could have done a better job of dealing with the information as it came in, saying that he was distracted by the big picture.

“If I’m honest, I probably didn’t handle it great, just trying to juggle all of those balls and the different information. … I probably got a little distracted about thinking what it means long-term for our team,” Nash said. “We’ve already been playing guys a lot of minutes, and if Kevin’s not playing are we gonna run the remaining guys too many minutes?

“So, maybe I got a little bit distracted by the big picture, but that’s the way this year’s going to be. We’re going to be in and out of COVID situations and minute pile-ups and all the difficulties that we’re going to face this year, and it’s going to be the same for everyone so we just have to try to adapt and be able to bounce back from little setbacks like this. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bounce back to win the game, but we’ve got to be able to bounce back this next week and play well and keep playing better.”

But the players on the court for the Nets struggled with understanding the situation as well, with many questioning why the game was even played if contact tracing was the reason given for Durant sitting, as the Nets shared a locker room with Durant and were out on the floor with him during his 19 minutes.

“He’s been negative, so I don’t understand what the problem is. If that was the case, the game should have been postponed, I feel like,” said James Harden. “If we’re talking about contact tracing, he was around all of us. I don’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to play, and then allowed to play, and then taken back off the court. If that was the case, we should have just postponed the game.

“They just said ‘contact tracing,’ and I’m thinking to myself ‘Well, if it’s contact tracing and we’re all in the locker room together, that means there’s no game if he’s not going to be able to play.’ That was my thought process, and once we started the game, kind of forgot about it.”

“It’s bizarre,” added Joe Harris. “For him not to be able to start, and then come in, play, and then be taken out again really just doesn’t make any sense. … If he's sitting for contract tracing, what the hell - he's with all of us on the court.”

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, all other Nets players have been cleared to travel to Philadelphia on Friday night for Saturday’s game.