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Kevin Durant returns after possible COVID-19 exposure; Kyrie Irving remains out as Nets' struggles continue in loss

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Durant drops in smooth jumper on the baseline (0:18)

Kevin Durant eases in a jumper from the baseline and over a defender in the first quarter. (0:18)

After missing the past three games because of the NBA's health and safety protocols, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant returned Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 36 points in a 129-116 loss.

Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, missed his third straight game for personal reasons.

The Nets have elected not to elaborate on Irving's absence, with coach Steve Nash saying Friday that he has communicated with the All-Star guard but wanted to keep those conversations private. Asked whether he was satisfied with Irving's communication level, Nash again said he wanted to keep that private, a sentiment he continued before the Nets faced the Thunder.

"All the communication with Ky between the organization, I'm going to keep private," Nash said Sunday, "but I'm sure you'll hear from him at some point."

Asked whether he had any idea of a timeline on Irving's return, Nash said he did not.

Irving had started Brooklyn's first seven games, averaging 27.1 , 6.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds.

"I don't worry about [Irving] falling out of rhythm," Nash said. "He's a brilliant basketball player."

Durant, who tested positive for COVID-19 last spring and is still showing antibodies in his testing, had a close contact exposure recently that forced him to sit out with a mandatory seven-day quarantine.

Durant said he spent the week doing some workouts in his home, lifting weights and running on a treadmill to try and maintain conditioning.

"I wouldn't say it was a struggle," Durant, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, said. "I definitely would've loved to be out there with my teammates, but COVID put us under these circumstances and a lot of guys around the league are under protocol. It's something we knew coming into the season may happen.

"I wasn't too upset about it, but I'm glad I'm back playing though."

The Nets built a 15-point point lead in the first half but watched it slip away as their defense collapsed. The Thunder scored 37 points in the third quarter and another 35 in the fourth.

"It's just pride. No matter what defense you're in, you've got to sit down and guard someone. And we didn't guard tonight," Nash said. "I didn't sense the pride. I didn't sense the competitive fire in the second half. I thought it was a lack of respect. We've got to learn from this and get better."

After starting the season with two impressive wins, the Nets have been inconsistent, hovering around .500. Without Irving the past three games, they've gone 1-2 to drop to 5-6 on the season.

Durant and Irving are close, but like the rest of the organization, Durant did not want to comment much on his teammate's situation.

"I wouldn't speak for Kyrie, I'll let him do that for himself," Durant said. "I'm sure you guys will see him soon when he comes back, and we support him 100 percent and pray for the best."