Kevin Durant’s progress has been as closely guarded as the nuclear codes. But just one day after Kenny Atkinson said the Nets star was “progressing fantastically,” Rich Kleiman, Durant’s manager, business partner and friend, wouldn’t rule out a return this season.
Kleiman — Durant’s longtime pal and partner in Thirty-Five Ventures — replied with a succinct “Yes” when asked on ESPN Radio if he thought the star could return to his former level of dominance. When asked Friday if Durant could make that comeback this season, his answer left the door hanging wide open.
“I don’t know,” Kleiman said before the Nets snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 117-113 win over the Heat at Barclays Center. “I’m not planning on it. Honestly, this is one of those things as a fan I would’ve thought the same thing, that there was this calendar in front of us and we were all having these powwows. He’s just attacking his rehab like he attacks everything else. I can see how intense he is about his recovery and his rehab, and I don’t want to disturb that.
“And it’s truly been day-to-day, because there’s no expectation on him from anybody, there’s been no pressure on him from anybody, there’s no expectation on himself. He’s just truly taking it day-to-day. And I think after what happened and all the pressure around the summer and the situation, he should take it day-to-day and he should just work.”
That’s hardly a guarantee of a Willis Reed moment this season. But after steadfast radio silence regarding Durant’s recovery from Achilles surgery performed in June, the past few days can only be seen as good news.
The decimated Nets, who came into Friday having lost a season-high seven straight games, are starving for auspicious signs of getting a 100 percent Durant, whenever that is.
In September, Nets general manager Sean Marks said the “expectation” was that Durant wouldn’t play this entire season. And though Atkinson said Thursday “I don’t think there’s been any thought [of Durant playing],” the fact the forward looked spry in an on-court workout bodes well.
“Talking to him, talking to the performance team, came in and watched him yesterday do his exercises. You guys can probably see he’s moving a lot better, moving a lot more,” Atkinson said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and get people mad at me for giving you more than that.”
When Durant ruptured his Achilles during the NBA Finals, he flew to New York and had surgery performed on June 12 by Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery. O’Malley not only operated on Durant’s foot years earlier, but also is the Nets’ orthopedic specialist.
Sources told The Post two months ago that Durant’s rehab has gone swimmingly, and NetsDaily reported recently that the rupture was “high on his Achilles where the blood circulation is good and healing is more rapid and complete.”
That bodes well for the Nets, who have had nothing but bad injury news.
Caris LeVert just recently came back from a thumb injury that cost him seven weeks. And Kyrie Irving missed his 26th straight game on Friday, trying to come back from a shoulder impingement.
Teaming up with Irving is a big reason Durant came to Brooklyn.
“The two of them are friends, the two of them wanted to play together and the two of them shared information that they had, and that was proprietary to them,” Kleiman said. “They spoke about that together, because there’s a certain connection, a bond the two of them as basketball players can understand.”