Can the Brooklyn Nets find consistency after another Kevin Durant injury?
While the Brooklyn Nets are excellent in many areas, continuity is not one of them.
Durant was playing in his fifth game after he missed 23 because of a hamstring injury. He had seen his minutes total climb with each game.
However, he managed just a hair over four minutes Sunday before leaving, scoring eight points on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field.
To add insult to the injury, Miami took down the Nets on a buzzer-beater from Bam Adebayo for a 109-107 win.
The Nets officially ruled Durant out with a left thigh contusion, but head coach Steve Nash wasn't able to detail the severity of the injury in his postgame news conference.
"He’s sore, but we don’t know how severe," Nash said via the New York Daily News. "We’ll see tomorrow how he wakes up and go from there, but right now, nothing’s been determined."
Irving has missed 16 games this season but has been back with more regularity recently. Harden, meanwhile, had been a fixture for the Nets since he was acquired in January but has missed nine games since March 24.
Then there's Durant, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury and has featured in just 24 of Brooklyn's 57 games.
With all of those moving parts, along with the midseason acquisition of Blake Griffin and the addition and subsequent unexpected retirement of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Nets have had one of the most in-flux rosters in the NBA.
Concerns about the team's chemistry have been prevalent, but the latest uncertainty with Durant shines a spotlight on the lack of time remaining for the squad to jell.
Irving addressed Durant's injury and the team's familiarity after the loss to the Heat.
"Anytime one of our teammates goes down, anytime something like that happens, it’s definitely going to take a hit for us," Irving said. "And he’s just gotten back. So we just pray that it’s not too serious and he’s able to recover, but it definitely has hit on our continuity at times. But we don't want to make any excuses for each other."
Speaking of not making excuses, Brandon Marshall said Monday that he isn't concerned about the Nets, despite Durant's injury.
"This story isn't new," Marshall said. "So if the story isn't new, and they're winning — and winning at a high level — why should they be concerned? Right now, what they've got to do is continue to embrace the 'next man up' mentality. ... I'm not concerned because they're winning at a high clip right now."
But to Marshall's "First Things First" co-host Nick Wright, the time for concern has come.
"[He] has not looked like Kevin Durant since he was dropping 50 a night, it felt like, on the Clippers in the first round of playoffs two seasons ago," Wright said. "And it has all but guaranteed they are not going to get the No. 1 seed, which I feel absolutely will matter in the East this year."
Chris Broussard echoed those concerns.
"They're sacrificing individual stats — or willing to do that — to win a championship," Broussard noted. "The problem is, it's almost a virtual certainty now that they are going to enter the playoffs with their best three players having played probably about 10 games together, if that. And that is absolutely unprecedented for a team to win a championship with so little experience together."
With 15 games left in the regular season for the Nets, the opportunities to see their "Big 3" at full strength are dwindling fast.
Harden's timetable is undefined as of April 16, per Nets general manager Sean Marks, and now Durant's status is up in the air.
At this rate, Nash better get comfortable writing his lineups in pencil.
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