Durant, Harden wave off worries about minutes

DALLAS — Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant understands the concern over his increased minutes, given his lengthy injury history that includes a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered two and a half years ago. He just doesn’t want to hear about it.

“I know people might be concerned about my minutes and I got injured before and all this extra s—, but we’ll figure it out if I get there,” Durant said after Brooklyn’s 102-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. “Right now, I want to play basketball.”

Durant played 40 minutes, 30 seconds in the win in Dallas, including the entire second half, finishing with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Durant, 33, ranks among the NBA’s top 10 in minutes played this season, averaging 36.2 per game, his most since the 2013-14 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

James Harden, Durant’s 32-year-old co-star, also ranks among the top 10 in minutes with 35.9 per game. He played 41 minutes, 35 seconds in the win over the Mavs, finishing with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists.

“One thing about me and KD, we love to play basketball,” Harden said. “So it don’t matter. We could play the whole 48. Even if we’re exhausted. Coach says something — nope. We wanna stay in the game. We wanna play.”

Harden had been remarkably durable throughout his career until last season, when hamstring issues limited him to 44 games during the regular season. Another hamstring strain caused him to miss three games during the Eastern Conference semifinals and severely hampered him the rest of the series.

Durant sat out the entire 2019-20 season while recovering from his Achilles tendon injury. A variety of injuries limited him to 27 games last regular season, but he was an ironman in the playoffs. He averaged 40.4 minutes during Brooklyn’s 12 postseason games, playing every second in two of the Nets’ last three games during the second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, including the Game 7 overtime loss.

Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer with 28.4 points per game, has seen his playing time increase recently. He is averaging 40.4 minutes during the East-leading Nets’ past five games.

“I think there’s enough distance from the injury that we feel more confident,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “At the same time, we don’t love it. We can do all this talk about improving through the year, but there’s always the risk of sometimes overburdening him and James as well. We have to be careful. I’m not sure if tomorrow’s the day, but there will be times in the season where we have to be really smart and make difficult decisions.”

Durant left no doubt that he would play in the second game of the back-to-back Wednesday against the Houston Rockets.

“S—, I might play 48 tomorrow. Just ’cause,” Durant said, cracking a smile. “Give y’all something to talk about.”

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