When Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 10, 2019, most predicted he would miss the entire 2019-20 season. Since joining the Brooklyn Nets in free agency this past offseason, no one has said anything different about the timing of Durant’s return. In recent weeks, however, Durant has sent out some not-so-subtle signals he’s closer to returning than many might expect. A recent video posted by his brother shows just how close.
Kevin Durant suffers achilles injury
The moment Kevin Durant went down in Game 5 of the NBA Finals last season, numerous questions emerged. They were all directed at the Golden State Warriors.
Durant had suffered a calf injury a month earlier in a second-round playoff matchup against the Houston Rockets, and many questioned if he had returned too soon. Was he pressured to get back and help a Warriors team that trailed the Toronto Raptors 3-1 in the Finals?
This past offseason, Durant, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, signed as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets. He also took the time in an interview with Yahoo Sports to clear the air of any blame for the devastating injury.
“How can you blame (the Warriors)? Hell, no. I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back. It was only me and (director of sports medicine and performance) Rick (Celebrini) working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. It just happened. It’s basketball. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that because I’m going to be back playing.”
Other NBA players and Achilles injury recovery times
How soon Durant is back playing remains unclear. Here’s a look at some other NBA athletes who have suffered similar injuries and the amount of time it took before they returned.
Kobe Bryant – The 18-time All-Star and 5-time NBA Champion Los Angeles Laker, who tragically died in an accident in January, is the most notable player to suffer a similar injury. Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon on Apr. 12, 2013. He rehabilitated his surgically repaired Achilles and returned to the NBA in December 2014, almost 20 months later.
Demarcus Cousins – Ironically, when Durant suffered his injury, Cousins was his teammate and the most recent NBA player to rupture his Achilles. Cousins injury occurred on Jan. 27, 2018, and he returned on Jan. 18, 2019, just one week shy of a full year.
Rudy Gay – If Durant has tried to model his rehabilitation after any other player, it’s Gay. Gay suffered his injury on Jan. 18, 2017 and returned to action nine months later on Oct. 18, 2017. Gay reached out to Durant following his injury and detailed what he could expect in the rehab process.
Chauncey Billups – Billups suffered his injury on Feb. 6, 2012. Like Bryant, Billups’ injury happened later in his career at age 35. Despite that, Billups returned to action on Nov. 28, 2012, just more than nine months later.
Mixed signals on Kevin Durant’s return
Since his arrival in Brooklyn, Durant has largely stayed out of the spotlight. Behind the scenes, he’s been working hard in his rehabilitation according to multiple reports.
Whether that hard work will translate into playing this season in Brooklyn, no one knows. The organization and those closest to Durant have sent out mixed signals in the last few months.
In January, former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters that Durant was “progressing fantastically.” The next day when Durant’s manager and agent, Rich Kleiman, was asked if Durant could return this season, it wasn’t as positive.
“I don’t know. I’m not planning on it. He’s just attacking his rehab like he attacks everything else. I can see how intense he is about his recovery and his rehab, and I don’t want to disturb that. He’s just truly taking it day-to-day. And I think after what happened and all the pressure around the summer and the situation, he should take it day-to-day and he should just work.”
Durant’s actions speak louder than words
Throughout the 2019-20 campaign, Durant hasn’t traveled with the team on the road. This is a common practice by NBA players focused on rehabbing from a major injury. That changed recently when Durant traveled with the Nets for their 104-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on March 10 at Staples Center.
While showing up for road games might be a positive sign for Durant’s progress, a recent video posted on Instagram by his brother Tony might be a better indicator of the superstar’s improvement. In it, Durant shows he’s well enough to get past his defender and then, more impressively, throw down a dunk with authority.
Although the video is encouraging for Nets fans and basketball fans in general, you can be certain of one thing, just as his agent suggested, Durant will not rush his rehab. He will take his time to make sure he’s 100 percent ready. And who could blame him? Durant will do everything possible to avoid a situation similar to what happened less than a year ago with the Warriors.