“I feel good playing,” Durant said. “I just take one day at a time. ”
It has been a long journey between tearing up his Achilles in June 2019 and preparing to play in the 72-game 2020-21 season. On Tuesday, Durant said that although he had pain, bruises, broken bones and strains during his time in the NBA, he had never undergone a rehabilitation process like this.
“I’ve had surgeries and injuries before,” he said in a virtual interview on Tuesday, “but the longest recovery has been three months. The first phase of Achilles [recovery] was three months. You can’t walk around, you have to use a scooter. ”
He said there were few, if any, activities he could accomplish without help at first, and although Achilles injuries have become more common, the rigors of relearning to walk, run, jump and do basic cutting exercises on a basketball. the court should not be “underestimated”.
Durant and Kyrie Irving – who underwent end-of-season arthroscopic shoulder surgery in March – did not join their Nets teammates in the NBA bubble in July, instead focusing on their respective rehabs. Durant said he and Irving sometimes worked together, mostly in Los Angeles. There were times when the duo worked together in the field four or five days a week, he said.
Durant also spent part of the offseason training with Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who he says looks “amazing.” Wall first injured his left heel during the 2018-19 season and underwent surgery, then tore his Achilles during his recovery, an injury that kept him from staying away for the entire time. period 2019-20.
Now that he’s back on the court in Brooklyn – even though the league doesn’t currently allow group training at team facilities – Durant has said he’s not holding back.
“I worked as hard as I could,” Durant said. “I’ve been in the league for 14 years; even if I didn’t have Achilles, I wouldn’t be 100%. It’s just wear and tear over time. [But] I feel solid. ”
He added that he couldn’t play shyly in hopes of protecting the leg he injured over a year ago.
“I’m just trying to play and not worry about it,” he said. “Sometimes you tend to focus too much on not hurting yourself and you probably go out there and hurt yourself. So I try to go as hard as possible and live with the results.
First-year head coach Steve Nash said he does not yet have explicit load management plans for Irving and Durant, but admitted they are unlikely to play in the 72. matches.
“It’s been such a layoff for both of you and especially for Kevin, with one of the most difficult injuries to deal with as a basketball player,” said Nash. “We have to be very careful with him and his adaptation process in the game. Kevin has done everything you could have asked to get himself into this position. Maybe we need to protect him from himself in some way because he brings so much. joy and passion for sport. ”
Achilles tears are notoriously hard for players to come back to. Durant tries to manage expectations, without promising that he will be the MVP-caliber talent he was before the injury.
“Who knows,” he said, how close he could be to this pre-injury version of himself. “I just saw what it feels like in a real NBA game. ”
In just 12 days, he will feel it. On December 13, the preseason begins for Durant and the Nets.