Kevin Durant told ESPN’s The Undefeated on Friday that he will not debut for the Brooklyn Nets during the 2019-20 NBA season after it resumes next month.
Durant has not played since he tore his Achilles tendon last June 11 during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors against the Toronto Raptors. The two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player will be a year removed from the injury when the Nets return to action on July 31 in Orlando, Florida, in a 2019-20 season pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although Durant said he feels much improved and is training in Los Angeles, the forward also said he is not physically ready to return this season.
“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.
“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”
Durant said he is uncertain about whether he will join the Nets in Orlando. The 10-time All-Star said he has been very comfortable rehabilitating without pressure in Los Angeles. Now 31 years old, Durant appears to be much more patient and intent on not rushing his return, like he did with past injuries with the Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. The 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player signed a four-year, $164 million contract with the Nets last summer after leaving the Warriors as a free agent.
“I had to reset and totally focus on just me and what I wanted out of this thing,” Durant said. “For the first time, I felt like I was in my own space rehabbing. I didn’t feel like I had to be a part of the team and travel with the team and do everything like I was playing. I could really take my time and focus on myself each and every day.
“I didn’t feel rushed at all. That was a great space to be in. I was putting pressure on myself in previous injuries, wanting to hurry up and come back. I saw my teammates having fun and wanted to be out there. This time, I felt like I was more patient throughout the process mentally and not rushing myself mentally, not get too excited when my team plays well or I have a good [rehab] day. I’m taking things second by second, and I’m trying to look out for what is best long term.”
Durant said he is fully recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus in March. He is confident that the NBA will have a smart and healthy environment for players to resume the season.
“I was shocked. And then I was curious. I wanted to know what it meant. What is the virus about? I started to get information about it more and more. It calmed me down … I was just more curious to what I was dealing with and how I could fight it myself,” Durant said.
Meanwhile, Durant’s co-star, Kyrie Irving, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on March 3, and indications are that he has no plans to play for the Nets until next season. Irving has been doing basketball-related workouts as part of his rehabilitation process, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
On a National Basketball Players Association call on Friday, Irving, a union vice president, inquired about whether inactive players could support their teams and attend playoff games — and whether a player doing so would count as one of the 35 people expected to be allowed in each team’s traveling party, sources said.