Kevin Durant ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols after coming off bench vs. Toronto Raptors

ByROYCE YOUNG via via logo
February 5, 2021, 11:29 PM

In a bizarre back-and-forth, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant's night culminated with him being unexpectedly pulled from Friday's 123-117 loss to the  Toronto Raptors in the third quarter due to the health and safety protocols.

Durant was initially not available to start Friday's game because someone he interacted with earlier in the day had an inconclusive test result for COVID-19, the league explained in a statement. He later came off the bench and checked into the game at the 4:13 mark of the first quarter. 

"Durant was initially held out of the game while that result was being reviewed," the statement read. "Under the league's health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test."

However, during the game, a positive result was returned for that person and Durant was removed from the game in the third quarter "out of an abundance of caution," according to the league.

Durant has tested negative for COVID-19 three times in the past 24 hours, including two PCR tests on Friday, the league said. Contact tracing is underway to determine if Durant was in fact a close contact of the individual who tested positive.

The rest of the Nets have been cleared to travel to Philadelphia for Saturday's game against the 76ers, but Durant will not make the trip, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

James Harden called the situation "frustrating" after the game.

"...I don't understand what the problem is," he said. "The game should've been postponed, I feel like. If we're talking about contact tracing. [Durant] was around all of us. So I don't understand why he wasn't allowed to play, then allowed to play, then taken back off the court. If that was the case, we should've postponed the game."

As he sat on a bench during a break, Durant was informed by a Nets staffer he was being pulled from the game. A visibly stunned Durant shook his head and as he walked through the tunnel to the locker room tossed a water bottle in frustration.

Durant tweeted "Free me" shortly after being removed then criticized the NBA in another tweet after the game.

Coach Steve Nash said the situation was difficult to deal with while the game was going on, adding that he was concerned about what the potential loss of Durant would mean for his team's immediate future. 

"But that's the way this year is going to be," he said. "We're going to be in and out of COVID situations and minute pile ups and all the difficulties we're going to face and it'll be the same for everyone. We have to try to adapt and be able to bounce back from little setbacks like this."

Durant finished with just 8 points on 3-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes, plus 6 rebounds and 5 assists. It marked only the second time in the past 10 seasons Durant failed to reach double figures, breaking a streak of 166 straight games. Durant scored zero points Feb. 28, 2017, against the Wizards, leaving the game 90 seconds in after an injury to his knee.

Friday's game also marked the first time Durant has come off the bench in his 13-year NBA career. 

Moments before he was pulled from the game, Durant was whistled for his fifth foul, but the Nets won a challenge to overturn the call on the floor. It's the first time in Durant's career he finished a game with more fouls than field goals.

Durant, who had COVID-19 last March, is the second-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 30.8 points per game. He previously missed three games in early January due to the health and safety protocols.

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