Kevin Durant reveals truth of missing 561 days between NBA games with torn Achilles
Following a recent Brooklyn Nets win in Canada against the Toronto Raptors, Nets superstar Kevin Durant was asked about returning to Scotiabank Arena, home of the Raptors, where he suffered his fateful torn Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals. The NBA’s leading scorer was asked to compare the player he is now to the player he was before the incident.
His answer reveals a lot about his approach to the game of basketball.
But first, let’s rewind and consider the timeline of that injury.
Back in May 2019, Durant then with the Golden State Warriors, first popped up on the injury report with a calf strain. Some suggested it was too risky for him to play on it for fear of making the matter worse. The end result was a disaster for the Warriors, who have since been accused of failing to protect their star, misdiagnosing his injury, or both.
Dr. Alan Beyer of the @HoagOrthopedic Institute said this to CBS Sports before Kevin Durant returned for Game 5: "With a weakened calf, you're worried about significant re-injury and even tearing the Achilles tendon further down."
— Brad Botkin (@bradbotkincbs) June 11, 2019
Some have suggested this incident was ultimately an important factor in Durant’s decision to leave the Bay Area and join Brooklyn. It cost KD the entire 2019-20 season as he recovered.
In 2020-21, Brooklyn relied upon a conservative load management program for Durant. He only appeared in about half of the team’s regular-season games. They didn’t want to ramp him up too quickly.
But what about now?
The 33-year-old has already appeared in each game this year and was a full go in both of the team’s back-to-back sets. He’s averaging 34.9 minutes per game, his most since the 2015-2016 season back when he was 27.
Following the team’s 116-103 victory over the Raptors (and exciting new prospect Scottie Barnes), KD took a moment to share his mindset on the topic.
“[Now] I think I’m a different player,” explained Kevin Durant. “I mean, having an injury like that is gonna make you a different player. I just think it’s another iteration of who I am I guess. I wouldn’t try and compare it to who I was back then, but I feel like I’m still growing, I’m still getting better, and I’m in a good place mentally so that’s all that matters.”
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One gets the sense the two-time Finals MVP is so focused on the present and future he doesn’t dwell too much on comparisons. Whatever his mental approach has been, it appears to be effective.
Averaging 29.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists, KD has been unstoppable. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging a robust 30.4 points. If that number holds it would become the first season of his career averaging over 30 points per 36 minutes.
His 9.0 rebounds per 36 would also be a career high if that rate hods as well. He’s shooting over 38 percent from beyond the arc. It’s early, but he has truly been the game’s most lethal weapon so far.
Kevin Durant’s jumper is pure art. pic.twitter.com/1lqaCHn0Yy
— Hilltop Hoops (@HilltopNBA) November 4, 2021
Meanwhile, KD has nothing but respect for Toronto and head coach Nick Nurse.
“Just more so thinking about Nick Nurse and the type of coach he is,” admitted a forthcoming Durant. “And how he guards me and the schemes and adjustments [Toronto makes] throughout a game, it’s pretty impressive. As an opposing player, it can keep you up at night.”
Perhaps more teams should watch whatever the Raptors do to earn his respect. In the following game, a loss to the Chicago Bulls, we did see Lonzo Ball sprinting over to double KD early in the possession. Perhaps they were paying attention to the Raptors’ schemes.
We know KD can be a bit of a perfectionist. Despite recording 31 points on top of seven rebounds and seven dimes while shooting a hyper-efficient 11-of-19 from the floor in the win over Toronto, he didn’t sound satisfied.
“…I think we were playing in a crowd too much, that’s why we turned the ball over,” said the nine-time All-NBA forward. “I had seven turnovers tonight from playing in a crowd too much.”
If Kevin Durant is too focused on the present to compare himself to older versions of himself, then perhaps we can do it for him. If he keeps up this current MVP level of play, we might one day be debating if he didn’t improve following a once-considered-career-threatening injury. That we’re even thinking about this stuff is pretty amazing. If you would have told me in 2019 that we’d be wondering if he is as good or better in 2022 than he was in 2017, I might have needed the mind-blown emoji to express myself.