After a year out of the league because of injury, Kevin Durant will make his highly-anticipated debut with the Nets this season. Teamed up with Kyrie Irving, he's expected to return to MVP form quickly and lead one of the most exciting offenses in the league.
But if you were expecting to see the same old Kevin Durant when he steps onto the parquet floor in Brooklyn, think again. On Wednesday, he revealed he'll be playing a new position some of the time this season: center.
""I think coach is going to use me in a variety of ways, especially as a small-ball 5 and 4 sometimes. And bringing the ball up, too, so I've just got to be ready for anything.""
We've seen Durant play every other position in the NBA before. He's primarily played small forward, but has also played power forward, shooting guard and point. But center is a new one.
While with the Warriors, Durant always had Andrew Bogut or Javale McGee or even Draymond Green to bang down low. In Oklahoma City, that was the job of Serge Ibaka or Enes Kanter or Steven Adams. But with an aging DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen as the only true centers on the team, and the Nets' strengths lying in small-ball lineups, Durant will be asked to step into a new role.
"Coach is just going to throw me out there and see how I respond," he said.
Durant pointed out he won't exclusively play center when the Nets go small and will be part of a fluid lineup where everyone will rotate around to different positions. That's how the NBA is in general now with rigid, set positions a thing of the past. But opponents will try to counter by putting in a big man to bang against Durant and then target Durant on the defensive side of the floor. That could lead to additional wear and tear on his body, though the Nets will counter whatever the opponent does to try and avoid extra strain on KD.
At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Durant has the height to play center. But he's always been slight of frame and has made his living on the periphery of the battles being waged in the trenches. Now he'll be asked to engage in trench warfare more than before, though, again, it won't be his primary role.
Durant is returning from a torn Achilles suffered in the 2019 Finals that kept him out of the 2019-2020 season. He'll be eased back into a full-time role and new Nets coach Steve Nash has already said he anticipates giving both Durant and Irving days off to rest. That should give Durant ample time to work his way back to MVP form. Whether he earns that award as a center or a forward remains to be seen.