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‘What the hell?’ Nets question why game was on amid Kevin Durant-COVID mess

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Frustrated. Overwhelming. Downright bizarre.

Those are the words the Nets used to describe what happened Friday night, when Kevin Durant was pulled from their starting lineup moments before tipoff, then allowed to play only to be yanked off the court for COVID-19 contact tracing.

“I was frustrated, especially [since] we follow the protocols, we get tested every single day, so I don’t understand the whole thing where he couldn’t play and then he came on a court, and then they took him back. There’s just a lot going on. There’s too much going on. It’s kind of overwhelming,” said James Harden, who broached the question of whether the game should’ve been called altogether.

“If that was the case, the game should’ve been postponed. If we’re talking about contact tracing, he was around all of us, so I don’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to play and then was able to play and then taken back off the court. If that was the case, we should just postpone the game. That’s how I feel.”

James Harden questions a referee during the Nets’ loss to the Raptors on Friday.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Durant had tested negative three times in the previous 24 hours, including twice on Friday. Nevertheless, he was still pulled off the court and now isn’t expected to make the trip to Philadelphia for Saturday’s huge matchup against the 76ers. It left the Nets shorthanded and confused.

“Yeah, that’s I mean, it’s spot-on: Confusing, frustrating. I mean, it’s bizarre, right? For him to not start, and then be able to come in, play, and then be taken out again. It really just doesn’t make any sense,” said Joe Harris, who was bewildered by what this meant for the rest of the team in terms of contact tracing.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I would’ve said, ‘Hey, if he’s sitting for contact tracing, I mean, what the hell? He’s with all of us on the court.’ ”

Harden had the same contact tracing questions, wondering: If safety was that much of a concern, why play?

“I said what was going on and they just said contact tracing,” Harden said. “I’m thinking to myself, well if it’s contact tracing then we’re all in the locker room together: That means there’s no game if he’s not gonna be able to play. So that was my thought process, and once we started the game, I kind of forgot about it. Then Kevin enters the game and I’m like, there must’ve been confusion or something messed up.”

What the Nets — and others such as Lakers star LeBron James and De’Aaron Fox of the Kings — find messed up is the NBA scheduling the All-Star Game for March 7. It’s going to be held in Atlanta, and the COVID-19 positivity rate for Fulton County is over 11 percent.

“The guys that are actually All-Stars, I feel bad for,” Harris said. “Yeah, it’s just a lot of stuff where it really doesn’t make that much sense. But I’m not the one making the decisions. I just work here.”

It could impact Harden, who falls into James’ and Fox’s camp as not looking forward to it.

“I haven’t said anything publicly, but I feel the same way as some of the players who are like there’s so much going on as far as we’re trying to calm a virus and we’re putting on an event,” Harden said.

“I know what the reasoning it is, but I feel like — especially with a condensed schedule that was forced upon players — it’s already draining to play a lot of games in a week. I feel like that was a week for us to relax, be with our families to take a step away from basketball. So like I said, we’re just in it.”

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