Kevin Durant is back. We won't get the KD vs. Jimmy Butler matchup we had hoped for, but that's only because it's the Miami Heat star who's out of the lineup for Thursday's showdown between the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat. Durant is set to return to the floor after missing the last 21 games with a sprained knee.

The Nets were 5-16 without him, even suffering a terrible 11-game skid during that time. It must have been really difficult for KD to handle that type of losing while still being patient with his rehab. You know how badly he wants to win. Durant sprained the MCL in his knee back on January 15th, when Bruce Brown fell into his leg.

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Prior to the game vs. Miami, interim head coach Jacque Vaughn shared some insight on why it took this long for KD to get back out there. Remember, he was originally given a four-to-six week window to return, and is making his comeback at the tail end of that range.

“I think he has a great perspective on the final goal for this team,” Vaughn said, “and so I think we were pretty judicious in how we brought him back as an organization. I think on the floor tonight he'll feel comfortable being out there and that was the goal.”

You probably got their on your own, but just in case you don't speak NBA coach, that's all code for Durant could have come back sooner but Brooklyn was playing it conservative. KD sustained an Achilles tear nearly three years ago. He missed all of the 2019-2020 season, his first in Brooklyn, and last season, he was only available for about half of the team's regular season games. They were cautious with him then, too.

At the start of this season, the cautious approach was basically thrown out the window. Durant has averaged 36.5 minutes per game, the most since his MVP season back in 2014. But with the MCL sprain, the team wanted to be extra “judicious” with the 33-year-old's rehab.

And they'll immediately enjoy the trickle down benefit his return provides.

“Yeah, just how it effects the minutes and rotations that's the immediate part of [his return],” Vaughn said. “The combinations we can have out there on the floor. The fact that he can guard multiple positions and cover a lot of holes for us allows us to play big and small, so immediate impact with having him back out there.”

But it won't just Durant's on-court play that boosts the team. It's his mere presence and the energy he gives just by being involved in everything again.

KD missed five weeks with a similar injury back in 2017. But he was still just 28 at the time, and hadn't yet dealt with the Achilles issue. It makes sense the team wanted to be conservative, and it shows some maturity on Durant's part that he resisted the urge to push.

Hopefully, Durant eases back into the flow, because his long-term health is the most important thing for the Nets.