It has been a long road back for Kevin Durant since he tore his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, but on Tuesday there appeared to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Durant reported to Brooklyn Nets training camp to prepare for his first season since the devastating injury and also his first season with his new team that he signed with last summer.
While he only did solo work due to COVID-19 restrictions, all eyes will be on the 10-time All-Star, who was asked in a virtual interview how close he is to being the same elite player he was prior to his injury.
“Who knows,” Durant said, per ESPN. “I just got to see how I feel in a real NBA game.”
Durant’s last game was on June 13, 2019, which was when he went down early in the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Since then, the rehab process has been quite the journey -- nothing he had ever experienced before.
“I have been through surgeries and injuries before,” he said. “But the longest recovery was three months. The first phase of the Achilles [recovery] was three months. You can’t walk around, you have to use a scooter.”
There was some question about whether or not Durant would be able to play in the NBA bubble that started last July, but he continued to focus on his rehab with teammate Kyrie Irving, who had season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery in March.
Steve Nash, the Nets’ rookie head coach, will be tasked with keeping both Durant and Irving fresh over the course of the modified 72-game season, which means enacting some sort of load management program.
“It’s been such a layoff for both of them and in particular Kevin, with coming off one of the toughest injuries to deal with as a basketball player,” Nash told reporters on Tuesday. “We have to be very careful with him and his adaptation process back into the game. Kevin has done everything you could ever have asked to put himself in this position. Perhaps we have to protect him from himself in a way because he brings so much joy and passion to the sport.”
While Durant understands the concerns to protect himself, he said it is something he cannot dwell on once he is out on the court.
“I just try to play and not worry about it,” he said. “Sometimes you tend to focus too much on not getting injured and you probably go out there and get injured. So, I try to go as hard as I can and live with the results.”
The NBA has yet to release an official regular season schedule, but the Nets do have a preseason game against the Washington Wizards on Dec. 13. It is certainly possible that will be Durant’s first game action since the injury.
“I feel good playing,” he said. “I am just taking it one day at a time.”