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Kevin Durant diagnosed with sprained MCL

New York — Kevin Durant has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his left knee. 

The Nets’ star injured his knee Saturday during their game against the New Orleans Pelicans. An MRI completed on Sunday morning revealed his diagnosis, the team said in a statement. The Nets did not give an estimated timeline for his return.

“Durant is expected to return to full strength following a period of rehabilitation,” the team also said.

A report then surfaced later in the day suggesting the Nets expect his rehab to last four-to-six weeks, according to ESPN. If that remains, the Nets will be without Durant at the very least until the end of February.

Durant played 12 minutes and 22 seconds of the game against the Pelicans before getting injured in the second quarter. At the time, Durant was standing in the paint defending a fastbreak when Pelicans forward Herbert Jones pushed-off Bruce Brown on a drive to the rim. Brown lost his balance and fell directly into Durant’s left knee, which appeared to hyperextend.

He limped off the court and into the locker room.

Durant contributed 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block before the the injury.

“It’ll be tough to lose him,” Steve Nash said of Durant Saturday. “No one wants to see that and we’ll obviously hope for the best outcome, but regardless of the outcome, we have to continue to work, build and grow and get better and compete.”

The time to return from an MCL sprain typically depends on the severity of it. A Grade I MCL injury means a stretching of the MCL, whereas Grades II and III mean a tear (partial or full) of the MCL, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Golden State Warriors’ point guard Steph Curry, for example, missed two weeks with a Grade I MCL sprain back in 2018. But Los Angeles Lakers’ center Anthony Davis has been out this season since Dec. 17 with an MCL sprain. Davis’ return could be during the Lakers’ road trip the end of this month, per ESPN.

The Nets’ forward has been a constant for the team this season, particularly when compared to his fellow teammates that round out the Big 3. Irving only recently was allowed to return as a part-time player and James Harden also has just recently returned to form.

Durant, meanwhile has played in 36 games this season in which he’s averaged 36.5 minutes — the most since his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder — and can be counted on to contribute an average 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists (his season’s stats so far) when on the floor.

He was in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols for three of the six games he did not play this season — two absences were rest days and the final absence was for a shoulder sprain earlier in the season, which Nash said had “been bugging him a little bit.”

This latest injury, while a concern, is certainly not his first and, hopefully for the Nets, not as severe as the ruptured right Achilles tendon he experienced during the playoffs of the 2018-19 season, which cost him his first season-plus in Brooklyn.

Last season, aside from missing time due to load management, he was also sidelined 23 games with a left hamstring strain and another three games with a left thigh contusion. He also missed time in the 2020-21 season after going into the health and safety protocols twice.

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