General manager Sean Marks told reporters that Durant is still expected to miss the 2019-20 season:
Ian Begley @IanBegley
Nets GM Sean Marks says Kevin Durant is attacking his rehab aggressively & doing well. He says Durant, as a competitor, would obviously want to play this season. But the Nets are taking a long-term approach with Durant, who will clearly have a significant say in when he returns. https://t.co/rJ1pNK1CdG
Those comments come just three days after Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported that "the feeling within the league is trending toward [Durant] potentially playing this season."
Spencer Dinwiddie also appeared to be optimistic about the possibility of Durant returning this season in that report:
"I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it's appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for us.
"The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we're ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he's ready to do so, and we know that he's going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster."
It isn't surprising the Nets are prepared to take the cautious approach with Durant. For one, Durant will be 31 when the season begins and nearing the age when players naturally slow down and recover from injuries less quickly. He's also dealt with injuries in the past and has played fewer than 70 games in a season three times (not counting the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season).
And an Achilles tear is a tough injury from which to recover. DeMarcus Cousins, for instance, never quite returned to All-Star form in 2018-19 with the Golden State Warriors upon his return from the injury and had his postseason hampered by injuries, much like Durant.
So caution remains a wise approach in Durant's return. The Nets knew that Durant may not play this season when they signed him to a four-year, $164 million contract this summer. It's the next three seasons of that deal the Nets should be most focused on, not the first.
Besides, the Nets were a playoff team without him last season, and Kyrie Irving—at least from a talent perspective—is an upgrade over D'Angelo Russell. The Nets may not be a title contender without Durant, but they'll still make noise behind Irving, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Dinwiddie and Joe Harris.