NEW YORK (CBS SF/AP) — After being left out of the NBA Bubble last season with the league’s worst record, the Golden State Warriors returned to play Tuesday for the first time since March and picked up right where they left off.
The Brooklyn Nets pummeled Golden State in the NBA’s league opener 125-99, with former Warrior Kevin Durant playing in his first regular-season game since rupturing his Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals while playing for Golden State. Durant signed with Brooklyn last season but sat out the year while rehabbing.
In an empty Barclays Center, Durant looked like his old Finals MVP self, scoring 22 points in 25 minutes. The Nets’ Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 26 points in 21 minutes. NBA Hall of Famer and former Warrior consultant Steve Nash notched a win in his debut as the Nets’ head coach.
The Warriors were led by Stephen Curry’s 20 points and 10 assists in his first regular-season appearance since breaking his hand and missing the rest of the 2019-2020 season after just five games.
No. 2 NBA Draft pick James Wiseman had an impressive start at center for the Warriors, adding 19 points along with six rebounds.
Golden State was without Curry’s splash brother Klay Thompson, who missed last season with a torn left ACL and who will sit out this season, as well, after tearing his right Achilles tendon in November. Draymond Green was also out for the Warriors with a strained foot.
Last season, without Curry, Thompson, and Durant, along with other key departures, Golden State finished with a league-worst 15-50 record and were among the eight teams that did not qualify for the NBA Bubble, the isolation zone at Walt Disney World established after the coronavirus outbreak.
The Warriors have won just 15 times in 560 days since Durant went down after five straight trips to the NBA Finals.
Before the game, Durant downplayed the significance of playing against the team where he twice earned NBA Finals MVP honors.
“I feel like each game is important to me and it’s no more of importance because I’m playing against my old teammates,” Durant said. “I just feel like the game of basketball is going to have me on that level anyway and it’s going to be good to see some of my old teammates, good to play against them, good to see some of the people I worked with in my time in Golden State, but nothing more than that.”
Durant played three seasons with the Warriors and was bidding to have them all end with championships. He returned from a calf injury to play Game 5 in Toronto with Golden State down 3-1 and was off to a strong start before he went down in the second quarter. The Warriors held on to win that night, shaking off the sadness of Durant’s injury.
Curry greeted Durant before the game with a heartfelt embrace at center court.
“It’ll be cool to see him out there and all those pleasantries and then get to just competing,” said Curry. “I think that’s what we all expect.”
No. 2 pick James Wiseman is available after his late start to the preseason.
With so many of the championship-winning Warriors not in the game and an unusual scene with no fans in the arena, Kerr said the game wouldn’t seem quite as strange as if the Warriors had played Durant when they were still on top.
“The circumstances are all crazy,” he said, “but it’s been a year and half and so you throw all that into the mix and it’s a totally different vibe.”
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.