NEW YORK – Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant couldn't start a game and then couldn't finish it, removed in the third quarter because of the NBA's health and safety protocols.
Durant wasn't available at the beginning of Friday night's game against Toronto, eventually being cleared to enter in the first quarter. Once he did, it became his first appearance as a reserve in his 867 NBA games.
The strange situation — Durant had originally been listed in the starting lineup before being removed — had the Nets dealing with a number of emotions.
“Confusing, frustrating. I mean, it's bizarre,” teammate Joe Harris said.
James Harden wondered why the game wasn't postponed, since Durant had been around the players beforehand.
“They just said contract tracing and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, if it’s contact tracing, then we’re all in the locker room together. That means there’s no game if he’s not going to be able to play,’” Harden said.
The questions continued well after Toronto's 123-117 victory. The Nets were cleared to travel to Philadelphia for their game scheduled for Saturday, but Durant wouldn't accompany them while the team awaited word on contract tracing.
He voiced his anger through social media, tweeting “Free me” and later blasting the NBA for its public relations tactics.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement that Durant had tested negative three times in the last 24 hours, including two negative PCR tests Friday. He said someone whom Durant interacted with in the afternoon had an inconclusive test result return shortly before the game. Durant was initially held out while that result was being reviewed.
“Under the league’s health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test,” Frank said. “During the game, a positive result was returned for the person Durant interacted with. ... Once that test was confirmed positive, out of an abundance of caution, Durant was removed from the game.”
Frank said contact tracing is underway to determine if Durant was in close contact of the individual who tested positive.
Durant helped the Nets rally to take the lead before he was informed in the third quarter that he needed to exit the game. Replays showed coach Steve Nash appearing to give the news to Durant, who walked toward the locker room area and threw a water bottle in frustration. The Nets then announced he was out for the rest of the night.
“I don’t get it. It’s frustrating obviously,” the Nets' Jeff Green said. “I mean, they let him play, then they take him out. I don’t know. I don’t get it.”
Durant had already missed three games this season related to the health and safety protocols. He tested positive for the virus in March while he was recovering from Achilles tendon surgery.
Durant finished with eight points. He had scored at least 20 points in all of his 17 games thus far, the longest streak to begin a season in his career.
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