Nets coach Steve Nash on Kevin Durant playing big minutes: ‘It’s not safe or sustainable’

As good as Kevin Durant has been to start the 2021-22 season, Steve Nash would actually like to see a little bit less of him on the court.

Before the Nets defeated the 76ers at the Barclays Center on Thursday night, the Brooklyn coach told reporters that he was worried about the amount of minutes Durant has been playing. After logging 39 minutes in a 114-105 win over Philadelphia, Durant is now averaging 37.0 minutes per game, which is second in the NBA behind only Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (38.0).

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“I don’t know that we can continue to lean on him the way we have. It doesn’t feel right,” Nash said. “I know he’s enjoying it. I know he’s enjoying playing at the rate he’s playing at and trying to bring his teammates along with him and all the responsibility that he’s accepted and crushed, basically. It’s just been incredible.

“But, at the same time, we know that’s not safe or sustainable to continue to lean on him like that. There’s gonna be a lot of consideration, and we’ll have to figure out a way to give him breaks.”

Unfortunately for Nash, his rotation is extremely tight at the moment. The Nets have several players in health and safety protocols, including James Harden, and they are still missing Joe Harris (ankle surgery) and Kyrie Irving (not compliant with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate). Durant has been performing at an MVP level, averaging 29.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, so any contest that he sits out would likely result in a loss for a Brooklyn team that currently sits atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 21-8 record.

“I love playing. I like being out there, and the challenge of winning is fun to me,” Durant said after totaling 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists against the Sixers. “No matter who’s out on the floor, we want to play to win.”

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While it’s clear that Durant remains focused on doing whatever is necessary in order to help his team continue its winning ways, Nash must keep his eyes on the bigger picture. Durant is just two years removed from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for the entire 2019-20 campaign, and he was limited to 35 games during the 2021-22 regular season because of other injuries. The challenge for Nash will be finding rest for Durant while keeping a competitive team on the floor.

When asked about the Nets being forced to play without key contributors, Nash explained that it is a bit of a good news-bad news situation.

“The question is we’re above the threshold [of the minimum amount of players required to be available for a game], so to speak, which is positive. At the same time, we’re barely above the threshold, so what toll does that take on our players?” Nash said. “Is it better to be over the threshold and to not be playing until you have a healthy roster? Or is it better to have enough to play, but to be short-handed and the burden and the toll that takes on these guys and knowing that you’re going to have guys coming back who haven’t been able to practice or play basketball?

“So, it is definitely tricky to navigate.”

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