Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was held out of the starting lineup of Friday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, allowed to enter in the first quarter, but then removed in the third quarter after an associate of his reportedly returned a positive test for COVID-19.
Durant exited with 9:06 left in the third quarter. He ended up playing 19 minutes and scored eight points.
The drama around Durant and the NBA’s health and safety protocols might not end right away either: ESPN reported later Friday that he won’t be traveling with the team for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia and could miss several games.
Durant was forced to sit out four games last month due to contract tracing. He also contracted the virus last spring.
Friday’s saga began when the Nets did not announce Durant was being held out of the starting lineup until moments before tipoff as they waited for test results from the associate, with whom Durant interacted earlier in the day.
The first test came back inconclusive, and Durant entered the game midway through the first quarter, the first time in 867 career regular-season games he did not start.
However, when Durant’s associate returned a positive test later on, the former NBA Most Valuable Player was pulled from the game and put back into contact tracing protocols.
Durant tweeted “free me” after being pulled.
Teammate James Harden was not happy with the way the Nets handled Friday’s game.
“I don’t understand the whole thing where he couldn’t play, then he came on the court, then they took him back,” Harden said. “There’s too much going on. It’s kind of overwhelming. We’re in the midst of a tough game, and these games are going to add up, especially if we’re talking about playoff seeding. … It’s overwhelming. It’s frustrating.”
Harden said, “(Durant) feels the same way. Especially with him already having it and we get tested every single day. He’s been negative. So, I don’t understand what the problem is. The game should’ve been postponed, I feel like. If we’re talking about contact tracing, he was around all of us. … If that was the case, we should’ve postponed the game.”
In his first season with Brooklyn after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, Durant entered the night averaging 30.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting. It is Durant’s second-highest scoring average, only behind his 32 points in 2013-14 for the Oklahoma City Thunder.