WASHINGTON — Neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving are going to play a second for the Nets the rest of the season. They won’t score a point or grab a rebound or take a charge. But it doesn’t mean they can’t have an impact.
Durant hasn’t been traveling with the Nets on road games, and neither has Irving since getting hurt on a West Coast road trip in November. Kenny Atkinson — who insists there’s no danger of detachment from the team — said that’s not going to change as long as their rehab is better served at home. But he said that could change eventually.
“No, we’re around them enough. I always hark back to the priority’s got to be what’s best for them from a rehab standpoint. That overrides everything,” Atkinson said. “And sometimes they want to come, and we’re like ‘No, you need to be on the AlterG at home.’
“We just can’t provide the same type of rehab conditions on the road, and that’s priority number one. I think we’ll continue to do that. But I think in the future you’ll see that change as the rehab processes get further down the road.”
Durant is expected to miss the entire season after Achilles surgery in June, while Irving’s has been cut short after just 20 appearances. He opted last week for season-ending shoulder surgery which still hasn’t been scheduled.
When Steph Curry was cleared to start traveling with Golden State last month, both coach Steve Kerr and his teammates lauded the impact he had just being around the team and in huddles.
Considering the way the Nets gush over Irving and Durant’s basketball IQs, it would stand to reason they would get similar benefits from their stars’ being present. Their next road trip after the one they’re currently on includes a March 12 visit to Golden State.
“I’m not going to give you any timetable. It’s just when we can afford them and say well, we can do the same thing on the road rehab-wise,” Atkinson said. “I know those guys would be thrilled. We’d be thrilled to have them come. It’s an advantage and we can be around those guys. It’s better for us, better for the organization.”
The Nets saw their lead on No. 8 Orlando for the seventh seed sliced to just a half game with Wednesday’s 110-106 loss to the Wizards. Avoiding that spot — and a first-round matchup with NBA-leading Milwaukee — is paramount. And with just 25 games left on the slate, the scoreboard-watching has started.
“Of course we look at it. That’s the goal. We want to make the playoffs. We let a couple slip. But we’ll get back on the right track,” said Caris LeVert, who admitted to a sense of urgency. “Absolutely. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to get another win, a road win. So be excited for it.”
Since going back in the starting lineup nine games ago, LeVert has averaged 23.9 points, 5.3 assists, 4.3 boards and 2.3 steals.
Wilson Chandler missed Wednesday’s game because of a personal issue, but it isn’t expected to keep him out for long.