That NBA scheduling department has a knack for sniffing out those good story lines — not that they were too hard to find this time around.
On Tuesday, Dec. 22, NBA fans will feast their eyes on two delicious matchups. The battle of L.A. figures to be a story line for quite some time, seeing as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Paul George — next up, Kawhi Leonard — just re-upped with their respective teams in a big way. That's one of the matchups we'll get to watch. And the other clash features two underwhelming teams from the 2019-20 season, whose records sat at a combined 50-87 but whose expectations for the 2020-21 campaign are high. The Golden State Warriors, featuring a healthy Steph Curry and new additions Kelly Oubre Jr. and James Wiseman, will take on the Brooklyn Nets, with a never-before-seen Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo ready to take the floor together for the first time in regular season action.
The last team Durant played for before going down to injury, a team that he never seemed to feel like he was a true part of, was, of course, the Golden State Warriors.
And while it's not hard to find the story lines in this matchup, which will air live on TNT, Durant doesn't feel as though there's any drama that needs extra attention.
"There's no narrative at all. It's just a regular basketball game," Durant said on his RADIO.COM Sports and Cadence13 podcast, "The ETCs," which featured LaVar Ball as a special guest. "I don't care too much about that drama that comes with that former team, you know, all that stuff. I've been through that with OKC so I'm not trying to do that with Golden State. I love everybody there.
"It's just another game."
But in another sense, Durant realizes that this is far from "just another game." It's a contest in which we'll see the return of one of the game's greatest pure scorers of all time — not the greatest pure scorer, as Durant has said himself — after a devastating injury. A ruptured Achilles, needless to say, is no small injury to come back from, though it's been done before. Many have struggled to return to form, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kobe Bryant, though players like Wesley Matthews and Dominique Wilkins bounced back nicely. NBA.com's Pablo Schatzky puts it in realistic terms, using a medical study as his basis:
According to a 2013 study by The American Journal of Sports Medicine that identified 18 players who suffered a ruptured Achilles between 1988 to 2011, seven of them never returned to the NBA. The players who returned missed an average of 56 games and saw their stats decrease in their first and second season.
After watching Durant's preseason debut, the thought is that he'll follow the Matthews/Wilkins trajectory of post-injury production. He finished with 15 points in 24 minutes and said that "it felt great" to be back on the floor.
So in this sense, Durant sees it as more than "just another game."
"That part is... I'm excited about playing, (and) to play some familiar faces is definitely going to be cool," Durant said. "Being away from the game for so long, I'm looking forward to it."
Tip off is at 7:00 p.m. ET, and we expect most every NBA fan will be tuning in to watch the season unfold in a special way.