The NBA will see the return of one of its top players this season. But, he won’t be at full capacity just yet.
Kevin Durant suffered an Achilles tendon tear back in June of 2019 during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Just one month later, the four-time NBA scoring champion signed a four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets.
While obviously excited to land such an elite talent, the franchise and its fans are concerned that Durant may not ever be able to return to his pre-injury form. This concern is certainly warranted — Achilles injuries are historically the most difficult to recover from in the game of basketball.
Durant himself has acknowledged the difficulty of this injury:
Kevin Durant says that it can be “underestimated” just how challenging it is rehabbing an Achilles injury. He described the small milestones: learning how to walk without assistance, jumping, and eventually playing again. He noted he had never been through anything like it.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) December 1, 2020
Before he suffered his injury, Durant was averaging a staggering 32.3 ppg through the Warriors’ 2019 playoff run. As arguably the NBA’s most elite scorer, it will certainly be difficult for Durant to ease his way back into the game with limited playing time.
The two-time Finals MVP opened up about his mindset heading into this season.
“It’ll be difficult because I love the game,” Durant said, “and I’m sure I’ll push back when coach takes me out of a game unexpectedly. But I have (to be smart).”
KD on how hard it’ll be to stay judicious and rest during the season: “It’ll be difficult because I love the game, and I’m sure I’ll push back when coach takes me out of a game unexpectedly. But I have (to be smart).” #Nets
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) December 1, 2020
Durant was 30 years old when he suffered the injury in 2019. As a younger player, he no doubt has an advantage over other NBA stars who’ve had their careers stunted by Achilles tears. Patrick Ewing (36), Isiah Thomas (35) and Kobe Bryant (34) all faced similar injuries at more advanced age.
Dr. Laith Jazrawi, chief of the division of sports medicine at NYU Langone Sports Health, spoke to the New York Post about Durant’s injury earlier this month. Jazrawi believes the 10-time All-Star’s age provides a significant advantage in recovery.
“That’s better for him, so I don’t see anything holding him back,” Jazrawi said. “The only thing is he hasn’t played for a year-and-a-half, so it’ll take time to get back into the rhythm. Some people are going to say ‘Oh, it’s because he had his Achilles [injury.]’ That’s not true. It’s that when anyone doesn’t play for a year-and-a-half, it’s just going to take time to get back into the flow. But he should do fine.”
Durant spoke to reporters via teleconference on Tuesday afternoon, answering questions about his return this season. The former MVP said he won’t be sure if he’s fully recovered until he steps onto the court in an NBA game.
“I got to see how I feel in an NBA game,” said Kevin Durant, when asked when he knew he was recovered from his Achilles injury.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) December 1, 2020
Durant will likely get that chance for the first time in over a year and a half when the Nets face the Wizards on Dec. 13.
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