ATLANTA — With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving expected to end their injury-riddled Nets debut seasons as non-factors, having played just 20 games combined, all by Irving — it has become de rigueur to pile on the pair.
It has become easy — low-hanging fruit — to deliver hot takes and judge the Nets going all-in on Durant and Irving to the tune of $300 million. But the greatest Net of all suggested pumping the brakes on that. Julius Erving said that’s way too premature.
“The season is an eternity, so when you’re missing it seems like forever,” Erving told The Post. “When you’re there and you’re playing it seems like forever, too. [But] when they’re back, when they’re playing, that’s how they should be judged.
“The upside is huge with those two guys on the floor at the same time, some of the other pieces they have. The Nets show a lot of promise.”
Durant is rehabbing a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered while he was still with the Warriors during June’s NBA Finals. Irving has suffered a litany of injuries, from a facial fracture to a sprained right knee to the shoulder impingement that cost him 26 straight games and eventually required season-ending surgery.
Coming back from serious injuries is one of the few things Erving never had to master in his Hall of Fame career. He played at least 71 games in every single ABA or NBA season up until his last, when he retired at 37.
But Erving knows Irving — if not well, certainly enough to have taken on a role as a mentor or extended fatherly figure.
“I’ve seen him from the beginning,” Erving said. “A couple occasions I’ve been in the same room, chatted a little bit. But like Kobe Bryant situation, he’s another generation, or in some cases multiple generations removed from me in terms of my playing days.
“I’m more of a father figure or even a grandfather figure to those guys who are playing now. And I accept that. I looked at Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain in that regard. These are the giants of the game. I made it my mission to chase that bar. It’s very high.”
The Nets play Friday in Atlanta. Wilson Chandler, who missed Wednesday’s loss in Washington for personal reasons, is not on the injury report and is expected back to face the Hawks.