The Brooklyn Nets dropped a key game to the Philadelphia 76ers. But sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference, now up just a half game over the Chicago Bulls, the bigger picture here is reintegrating not only their players who have been out in health and safety protocols but also their superstar Kyrie Irving.

It was Durant’s first game back since Dec. 16, coincidentally the last time they played the Sixers. Durant didn’t look too rusty though. He had 33 points, six rebounds, four dimes in the 110-102 loss to Joel Embiid’s Sixers. He shot 13 of 24 from the field and 3 of 8 from deep. Things even got chippy out there between Durant and Embiid but it sounds like it was all love.

So what did Durant do to stay in shape during his COVID break? “Nothing. I mean, I don’t got no gym at the house you know what I’m saying so, nah I really didn’t [work out]. Once I was cleared to come back to the gym, the training staff did an incredible job helping me ramp up, play in games, couple workouts. I feel good but definitely next game it’ll be better, game after that will be better.”

But the million dollar question, what is KD’s reaction to his friend Kyrie’s return, at least as a part-time player?

“I mean, have you watched him play?” the Nets star flipped the question back to reporters, at least rhetorically.

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“He’s a master,” continued the two-time Finals MVP. “He can score 60 percent, 70 percent of his shots if you don’t guard him. You know, he’s a high IQ player so it’s just a matter of him just getting his legs up under him, his wind up under him and then for us we’re gonna run plays for him, we gonna try to look for him. You know we play team basketball so and he can adapt and do anything out there so we’re not worry about him,” said Durant.

James Harden was lethal for the Nets again, despite the game’s outcome. Harden notched his third consecutive 30-point game. He had a triple-double with 33 points, 10 dimes, and 14 boards. He had some kind words for the Sixers upstart point guard Tyrese Maxey.

“Maxey knocked down some big tie shots,” praised the 2018 MVP. “He was being ultra aggressive which he’s been their star point guard for the entire year… He made some big shots for them and that was the game,” said Harden. Maxey finished with 25 point, seven boards and four assists, knocking down 5 of 8 from deep.

But enough about Thursday’s game, what about Irving, how has how Kyrie looked in practice?

“Like Kyrie. Elite,” laughed The Beard. “Yeah I mean, same Kyrie, we just happy to have him back. Now we gotta get him on the court and get this thing going.”

Brooklyn has 22 road games left that Irving is eligible for. It remains to be seen if that first one will be the Jan. 5th tilt against Indiana or the Jan. 12th game versus the Chicago Bulls, or perhaps even later. The one in Chicago versus DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine would have some potential seeding implications. The Bulls won both prior meetings over the Nets. But Steve Nash’s crew isn’t sweating all of that because now that they know Irving is returning, everything else seems a whole lot easier. And they couldn’t be more excited.