Kevin Durant returns to grand style with a strong home win as the Brooklyn Net open season

NEW YORK – Golden State coach Steve Carey sat down to watch some of his former player Kevin Durant’s films ahead of the Nets season opener against the Warriors. He played in Brooklyn’s Prison game against Boston and played in Durant’s first competitive game since tearing down his Achilles in June 2019.

“I didn’t know if I should expect it to be two years after his last game,” Carey said. “But I couldn’t tell the difference between seeing him 18 months ago and seeing him the other night.”

Durant has refrained from making any successful suggestions, but Kerr found a front-row seat in Durant’s dominance on Tuesday as he scored 22 points in a 125-99 victory over his former team.

And this time, it was no prison warm-up.

“I think it was our first solid start,” Durant said after the game. “So we wanted to build on that. I was waiting to get out here and get the ‘W’, and I was glad we were able to come out and get this job done.”

Durant midrange jumpers over Andrew Wiggins, elevated for one-handed slam, threaded the ball through defenders, found Dindre Jordan on the rim and scattered in the 3s. While he wasn’t on a one-minute ban, coach Steve Nash said before the game that he would be “thoughtful” with Durant’s game time. He came out on the floor for 25 minutes.

Along with his scoring, Durant had 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steels. He shot 7-of-16 off the field and missed seven free throws in the throw line. Durant said he didn’t feel he needed to prove he could match his level of play in 2019 to make an issue.

“I don’t think I have to show anyone anything,” Durant said. “I’m just going to get out there and just hoop … So, I don’t think I have to prove myself, but I want to get there and go do what the coach wants. On the floor.”

Warriors star Stephen Curry will be able to confront his former teammate in a single word: “Terrible.”

“KD out there – he looked healthy, confident in body the way he looked, so it was good to see clearly in terms of health,” Curry said. “It means a lot to come out of these types of injuries.”

Led by Durant and Carrie Irving, Brooklyn quickly made steam. Durant advanced to the basket in the first quarter and the net jumped after delivering an official dunk to take an 18-8 lead in the first quarter. He scored a quick 10 points in the first quarter, and Irving – who has not played competitive basketball since February after injuring his shoulder – led the team with an initial 17 points.

Irving – who has nailed almost impossible deep 3-pointers and demonstrated his flamboyant, signature hand-landing – ends up with a team-high 26 points.

Irving said after the game that he has been encouraged by the game, but has big goals for him this season. He said that at the time of his career, he was “just trying to play ‘hero’ basketball.”

This season, he said, he’s trying to focus more on the collective team’s goals.

“As a young player,” Irving said, “you think it’s great to make a bunch of points, a bunch of things, a bunch of compliments. I’ve definitely been going after those things, and now, I don’t really do any personal praise. Or take care of goals. It doesn’t bother me. I know I’m culturally valid. It’s all important. I don’t need an All-NBA; I don’t need an MVP. I just want a championship with a great team that I can. I can look back in history and say, ‘We did it our way, and we enjoyed it.’

Neither Durant nor Irving played in the fourth quarter.

Towards the end of the third quarter, Durant was heading to the bench, his night was over, he made each teammate and coach high-five, while he reached his seat in the second row from the first row of folding chairs. He looked at the scoreboard, as if taking the numbers on the back of his return as displayed, and pulled his gray warm-up shirt over his head.

With Irving by his side, Durant watched as his teammates joined the Brooklyn lead. At one point in the fourth quarter, the net rose more than 30 percent. Durant applauded and got more high five-outs, completing the next step of his comeback.

Nick Friedel of ESPN contributed to this report.