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Durant expected to return for Nets on Thursday against Heat

March 2, 2022 GMT
Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons, left, sits with forward Kevin Durant, right, on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons, left, sits with forward Kevin Durant, right, on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons, left, sits with forward Kevin Durant, right, on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons, left, sits with forward Kevin Durant, right, on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons, left, sits with forward Kevin Durant, right, on the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant is set to rejoin the Brooklyn Nets, who have fallen apart since their superstar forward limped off the court 1 1/2 months ago.

Durant is expected to return from a left knee injury that has sidelined him since mid-January when the Nets host the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

Durant wasn’t listed on the injury report Wednesday by the Nets, who tweeted a picture of Durant with a caption “The return.”

It’s a desperately needed one for the Nets, who have tumbled all the way from NBA Finals favorite to eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn is 5-16 since Durant sprained his left medial collateral ligament Jan. 15. The Nets were 27-15 at the time, second in the East.

Durant is averaging 29.3 points. He was leading the league at the time but would now rank third behind Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo if he had played enough games to qualify.

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Durant was hurt in a Jan. 15 victory over New Orleans, when teammate Bruce Brown was knocked backward and fell into his knee. Brooklyn was only a half-game behind Chicago for the East lead at that point.

Now, the Heat lead the East and the Nets are just trying to make the postseason. They appear headed to the play-in round, having fallen 4 1/2 games behind Boston for sixth place and the final guaranteed playoff spot.

Coach Steve Nash said when the Nets returned from the All-Star break that he expected Durant to return within the next 3-4 games. Durant has missed all four since, with the Nets losing three.

Durant will be the lone star on the court for the Nets. Kyrie Irving remains unable to play in home games because he isn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus as mandated by New York City, and Ben Simmons still isn’t practicing because of a back injury.