The Nets have been without Kyrie Irving all season, but Knicks forward Julius Randle served up the ultimate superlative to another member of the Nets’ Big 3.
“He’s the best player in the league, for sure,” Randle said Monday when asked about Kevin Durant ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Nets at Barclays Center. “[I’ve] never seen a 7-footer that skilled.
“[He can] do anything, everything, on the court. No weakness. That’s him. He’s tough. Great player, but I love competing against him.”
Durant enters Tuesday’s game tied with Golden State’s Stephen Curry atop the NBA’s scoring list at 28.6 points per game. He also has posted a career-best 54.8 shooting percentage, including 41.1 percent from 3-point range. The Nets lead the Eastern Conference with a 14-7 record despite no appearances by the unvaccinated Irving.
“Kyrie is another one that’s really, really good. Probably haven’t seen a player like him in the league before. So he offers like a whole other dynamic to their team,” Randle said. “But what I’ve seen, KD has been playing great, James [Harden] has been the point guard kind of steering the ship and their other guys are contributing nicely and filling in their jobs. … But I think we’ll be up for the challenge.”
Tom Thibodeau added the Nets “are playing great basketball,” despite losses in the past two weeks to upper-echelon Western Conference opponents Golden State and Phoenix.
“Obviously, offensively the weapons they have at the end of a game, you have great choices even with Kyrie being out,” Thibodeau said. “And Kyrie is a special talent. But Harden and Durant, those guys are superstars. And they complemented them with really good players.
“Patty Mills and [DeAndre] Bembry have played well. [LaMarcus] Aldridge, [Blake] Griffin and [Bruce] Brown, and James Johnson has been a good pickup for them, as well. So they’re deep and they are playing great defense. You add that to it, and they’re a load and they’re sitting on top of the conference right now.”
Thibodeau said Derrick Rose (ankle), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Taj Gibson “did more” in practice on Monday, but all three remain questionable after sitting out Saturday’s win in Atlanta. RJ Barrett also has been listed as questionable with a non-COVID related illness.