Kevin Durant’s smooth-as-silk NBA return is “kind of scary for the rest of the league,” Steve Kerr, his former coach at the Golden State Warriors, said Tuesday.
Kerr coached Durant through two NBA Championship runs with the Warriors and had a court-side seat as Durant played his first meaningful NBA game since suffering a career-threatening torn Achilles tendon playing for Golden State in game five of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Not long after Durant departed for Brooklyn as a free agent, but by the time he finally suited up for the Nets on Tuesday, in the first day of the 2020-21 season, it had been 561 days since his last competitive game.
“(His play) is kind of scary for the rest of the league,” said Kerr, whose Warriors were blown out 125-99.
“I couldn’t tell one difference between seeing him 18 months ago to seeing him (now),” Kerr added.
Durant meshed effortlessly with Nets star Kyrie Irving.
The four-time NBA scoring champion showed flashes of fire. He threw down a dunk that put the Nets up 18-8 with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
His 10 first-quarter points coupled with Irving’s 17 were more than the 25 scored by the Warriors in the opening period.
It only got better for the Nets, and Durant and Irving along with the rest of their starters sat out the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
Durant finished with 22 points in just under 25 minutes, connecting on seven of 16 shots from the floor and draining all seven of his free throws.
Durant insisted there was no extra emotional element to facing his former team.
He and Warriors star Stephen Curry exchanged a warm embrace on court before the game.
“No emotions at all,” Durant said. “It’s good to see old friends, old teammates.
“But I wouldn’t say there was any emotion. I think guys came out here and played extremely hard and competed and put on a good show for opening night.”
Nets fans, however, might have been feeling plenty of emotion after watching the long-delayed pairing of Durant and Irving.
But new Nets coach Steve Nash — a two-time NBA MVP in his first head coaching job — doesn’t want to pile the pressure of expectations on Durant.
“That’s true and fair (that Durant looks good),” Nash said. “He’s done everything and he is in absolutely the ultimate position to come back from this injury.
“But we also have to give Kevin time to play NBA games and not get carried away.
“He looks amazing, he’s playing amazing, but I want to just give him breathing room and not put on too much pressure after not playing competitive basketball for 18 months.”