NEW YORK -- Kevin Durant will miss the Brooklyn Nets' next three games before being eligible to rejoin the team on Friday, coach Steve Nash said ahead of Saturday's 124-108 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Durant on Friday drove with a team employee who later that evening returned a positive test for COVID-19 during the Nets' home loss to the Toronto Raptors, sources told ESPN. The NBA's health and safety protocols state that any player exposed to someone with COVID-19 must quarantine for six days.
If Durant continues to test negative for COVID-19, he will be eligible to return against his former team, the Golden State Warriors, next Saturday.
Durant was maskless in a car on Friday with the team employee three separate times, sources told ESPN. The Nets' star drove with the employee to the practice facility for testing, to his home from testing and to the game. The NBA's COVID-19 guidelines prohibit players and staff from commuting together without wearing protective face coverings.
The employee returned an inconclusive test result, and the Nets informed the league office of those results on Friday afternoon. Minutes before tipoff versus Toronto, the Nets were instructed to pull Durant out of pregame warm-ups. Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks had been on the phone with the league office and delivered word down to the court.
Durant returned midway through the first quarter and helped the Nets come back from a once double-digit deficit.
"Durant was initially held out of the game while that result was being reviewed," a league statement released Friday night said. "Under the league's health and safety protocols, we do not require a player to be quarantined until a close contact has a confirmed positive test."
The Nets staff member returned a positive test during the game, and Durant was pulled during a third quarter timeout after playing 19 minutes.
"I don't understand the whole thing where he couldn't play, then he came on the court, then they took him back," Nets guard James Harden said after the game. "There's just a lot going on. There's too much going on. It's kind of overwhelming. We're in the midst of a tough game, and these games are going to add up, especially if we're talking about playoff seeding ... to catch a rhythm. It's overwhelming. It's frustrating.
"[Durant] feels the same way. Especially with him already having it and we get tested every single day. He's been negative. So I don't understand what the problem is. The game should've been postponed, I feel like. 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, then allowed to play, then taken back off the court. If that was the case, we should've postponed the game."
All other Nets players and staff members continued to test negative for the coronavirus, sources told ESPN. The Raptors have not returned any positive tests, sources said.
This is the second time Durant has had to miss an extended period of time this season as a part of the league's contact tracing. In early January, Durant missed six days and three games after being exposed to another individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
Durant, who had COVID-19 in March, has continued to register coronavirus antibodies, and he tested negative for the virus seven times over the past three days, sources said.
The NBA's COVID-19 protocols do not differentiate between players who have antibodies and those who do not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibodies are "proteins that help fight off infections and can provide protection against getting that disease again." Scientists are still unsure what degree of immunity antibodies provide against being reinfected.
Durant is averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 34.6 minutes of playing time for the Nets this season.