LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) - The Brooklyn Nets will be without star forward Kevin Durant on Saturday in the marquee Christmas Day game against the Lakers at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles.
The 11-time NBA All Star has been in league health and safety protocols since Dec. 18 and it was confirmed Friday that he will be out on Saturday. Durant is one of eight players on the Nets in health and safety protocols.
In the NBA, more than 100 players have gone into protocols, leaving teams in some cases forced to sign players just to have the minimum eight required to play. As injury reports lengthened throughout December, with the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls both having 10 players in protocols at times, there were questions about whether the NBA would be better off just pausing the season.
"The league's in a tough position," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "Do you shut it down and extend it? Or what do you do, because you could shut it down and still the West Coast theoretically could get hit by the virus later and then what, we shut it down again? So I could understand it's tricky to navigate and there's no right answer and there's a lot of things to consider."
Christmas is traditionally the NBA's biggest day of the season, often with catchy commercials and special uniforms to promote the games. It's where Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant first faced off as opponents, where the most must-see teams or players get the spotlight to themselves.
The schedule, when it was unveiled in the offseason, was headlined by Brooklyn's Big Three going to Los Angeles to visit LeBron James and the Lakers, who were expected to be a Western Conference powerhouse.
Now the Nets are a patchwork crew that's down to a single superstar, with James Harden released from protocols Thursday but Durant and Kyrie Irving still sidelined.
"It's tricky," Nash said. "We haven't been able to do a lot, but we do what we can and we'll continue to just adapt as the rules and mandates come in."
Durant was having one of the best seasons of his career averaging 29.7 points per game (2nd in the NBA), with 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading the Nets to a 21-8 record before being placed in health and safety protocols last week.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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