Storyline: Kevin Durant Injury

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Durant ruptured his Achilles during the NBA Finals then underwent surgery on June 12. With the NBA returning on July 31, it’ll be a little more than 13 months since his surgery. Durant, his agent/manager Rich Kleiman and Sean Marks have repeatedly said throughout the season and the NBA stoppage that a return was unlikely. Speculation grew as the stoppage continued then as the league moved quickly on its comeback, but sources believe the Nets are sticking with their original plan to keep him out for the season.

So did NBA commissioner Adam Silver in an interview with Turner Sports “Inside the NBA” on Thursday, telling panelist Charles Barkley he didn’t think it was unfair that players who sustained what were thought to be season-ending injuries to come back when the season restarts. “We’re gonna allow it,” Silver said. “And I’d only say, Charles, that this has been the back-and-forth with our teams. There’s so much here that’s not fair, and we’re choosing among multiple bad alternatives given the (coronavirus) pandemic we’re dealing with. … I think, ultimately, to the extent a team has a healthy roster and those players are able to come back, they are eligible to play.”

Net teammate: Kevin Durant not returning this season

Spencer Dinwiddie understands that expectations are raised to championship if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return for the Orlando playoffs. But the Nets guard is unsure what his star teammates will decide. “That’s the billion dollar question. But that’s not something I can answer,” Dinwiddie said Wednesday morning on ESPN’s “First Take.” “I know they’re both working really hard. They’re two of the hardest working in the NBA on the court, and two phenomenal players. If they are able to return and that’s the decision they make, our aspirations turn from playoffs to championship. “If they’re not able to return, which they’ve pretty much said that’s kind of the stance that they’re taking, we still want to be a team that grinds to get to the playoffs and makes a run in the playoffs. But we also understand the talent they add with being two of the top-10 players in the league and KD being, in my opinion, the greatest scorer of all time.”

Speaking to second New Zealand outlet in the past few weeks, Marks praised Durant’s physical condition, but gave the indication a return for the 2020 playoffs wasn’t in the cards. “I can tell you now he looks pretty darn good and I’m excited about him on the floor at Barclays in front of that fan base,’’ Marks said on Sky Sport NZ’s “The Pod” podcast. “But how do they mesh? How do they all play together? That’s the chess game, the intricacies of what a coaching staff does, what the management group does to put the right pieces around them.’’

Durant’s return for the playoffs would be a delicious, inspirational treat to hungry New York basketball fans — and the NBA — but he’d probably have to play limited minutes and without Irving. The Nets are the seventh seed in the East. “That’s what these guys are fighting for now,’’ Marks told the podcast. “If you talk to Kevin and Ky, they’ve both won —Kevin’s won two championships, Ky’s won a championship — so now, it’s how do we make this ours, how do we take this to the next level and who do we do it with? That’s a big part of their decisions.”

The injury sidelined him for the entirety of this season, and he was one of four Brooklyn Nets players to contract the novel coronavirus back in March. The 10-time all-star is not expected to play for the Nets if the NBA resumes this summer. “I’m alive,” said Durant, who was asymptomatic when he tested positive. “That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. I’m good. The unknown is always scary, but I had a lot of support. I knew if I needed anything, I could call someone. [As a society], we still haven’t figured this whole thing out, but having more information by the day helps.”

Kevin Durant: I'll be back when it's time

Speaking on Lil Wayne’s Young Money Radio on Tuesday, Durant addressed the possibility of a return if the NBA picks up its season and playoffs in mid-July. Last week Nets GM Sean Marks told a New Zealand news outlet a Durant return was not out of play, calling it “the $110 million question.” “It is what it is man. Everybody waiting on me to come back,” Durant said Tuesday on the show. “A lot of emotions involved. So I get it. I understand the business now. But I’ll be back when it’s time.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks fed that fire earlier this month when he seemed to indicate it was possible during an interview with the New Zealand media outlet, Newshub. “That’s a $110 million question,” Marks, whose team is currently in seventh place in the East, said in the interview. “When you’ve got enough invested in a player like Kevin, we’re never going to push him to come back. When the timing is right, he’ll be 100 percent when he gets on the court. … I can tell you this though: Before the pandemic, he looked like Kevin Durant and that’s a good thing.”

Kleiman reiterated that stance earlier this week in an interview on SiriusXM Radio, when asked by host Frank Isola if there was a chance Durant would play this season if the year resumed in July. “From my standpoint, no, I think it’s unrealistic. That’s just my view on it,” Kleiman said to Isola and co-host Wes Wilcox. “Again, we haven’t gone deep into conversation about it because of how unrealistic it all seems to me. I figure that if something changed, he would tell me. And it’s also hard to even discuss (a potential return this season) in a real serious manner without any information on the season. (There is) such uncertainty day to day — as we all (feel), outside of just the NBA — that the whole thing just feels too unrealistic from my standpoint.”

“From my standpoint, no,” Kleiman said. “I think it’s unrealistic. That’s just my view on it. We haven’t gotten deep into the conversation about it because of how unrealistic it all seems to me. I figure that, if something changed, he would tell me. And it’s also hard to even discuss in a real serious manner without any information on the season. It still feels there’s such uncertainty day to day. Outside of just the NBA, the whole thing just feels too unrealistic from my standpoint.”

“I think he’s always been in the smallest group – one, two, three, at most – of the top players in the league in people’s minds,” Kleiman said. “Obviously, I’m biased. But I think he’ll be better, to be honest. His game has never been completely reliant on athletic ability, though he’s got incredible athletic ability. His skill set is off the charts in terms of just scouting, and his intelligence for the game is at an all-time high…Having a year off and watching so much film and you saw how close he was to the team, I mean, he’s a hoop junkie. I think maybe you’ll see just a new version.”

Sirius XM NBA: “It’s also hard to even discuss in a real serious manner without any information on the season” Kevin Durant’s business partner @richkleiman tells @Frank Isola & Wes Wilcox he still doesn’t think we’ll see @Kevin Durant on the court if the season resumes this summer. #WeGoHard pic.twitter.com/rh0DmtxbLw

But the coronavirus hiatus may just have opened a window of opportunity for Durant in particular, if the schedule now continues deep into the year. “That’s a $110m question,” chuckles Marks. “In all seriousness, we’ve tried not to talk about his timeline a lot. “He knows his body better than anybody. Our performance team and training staff have done a tremendous job getting him to this point, but I just don’t know how coming out of this pandemic will affect anybody, let alone Kevin.

Nets veteran Garrett Temple said he played three-on-three with Durant in Los Angeles on March 11, the day after the team’s most recent game. Like Pinson, Temple struggled to stop Durant — which was a good thing. “The places he scores from, he’s very efficient in the way that he scores and the shots that he takes, even in there-on-three,” Temple told The Athletic in a telephone interview last week. “It really isn’t much different what he does in three-on-three than he does in five-on-five. He assesses the defense and goes from there.”

Kevin Durant’s manager threw more cold water on the idea of the injured Nets superstar returning if and when the NBA season resumes. The season getting suspended on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic has sparked persistent speculation that the added time would allow Durant to recover from his Achilles surgery. But Rich Kleiman reiterated that it’s so “unrealistic” that he’s never even discussed it with Durant. “I promise you, Kevin and I have not talked about that. And I know it sounds crazy, but my assumption has been that that wasn’t very realistic,” Kleiman told Sports Illustrated. “It’s just not…I know when the time will be right to have that conversation; but it just hasn’t been that time and it just doesn’t feel like it’s needed.”

Prompted by a question from Kay about the possibility of a Durant return when the season resumes — say in June — Eagle speculated: “Durant and his people have downplayed it. Obviously, Kevin right now, the focus, after his positive test for coronavirus, clearly it’s just all about health. But yeah, you allow your mind to wander a bit. Whether or not Durant, from those little video snippets that we’ve seen, he looks good. He looks like himself. He looks like a player that could step in and play today.”
5 months ago via ESPN

Adrian Wojnarowski: Obviously, people have talked about Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. I’ve been told that that is not an expectation of him coming back, although I heard he’s looked pretty good over there that the plan was not to do that. Because remember, you’d come back, you’d have a pretty short turnaround, no matter what you do, from the end of this season to next season, and they’re going to be careful with him now. Could that change? I guess it could change but right now, the next plan is to not bring Kevin Durant back.
5 months ago via ESPN

The possibility of a summer return for the NBA season has led to speculation that injured superstar Kevin Durant could rejoin the Brooklyn Nets in time for their postseason push. But Durant’s longtime business partner Rich Kleiman tamped down expectations for the former MVP on Monday morning, telling Golic & Wingo that hopes of Durant playing in June or July are “not very realistic.” “Honestly, not very realistic from my standpoint, and not even spoken about,” Kleiman said.

Even so, Kleiman said he expects Durant, who has done only a handful of media interviews this season, to reclaim his spot among the NBA’s top talents. “I have no question he’ll be back better than ever,” Kleiman said. “By next season, I expect nothing but KD. Great things will happen. Injuries are a part of the game, and it’s obviously been a bit frustrating. The Nets are still in playoff position. The players are developing and getting better. I expect things to pick up. Everyone knows what [Durant and Irving] can do when they’re playing and healthy.”

Durant hasn’t been traveling with the Nets on road games, and neither has Irving since getting hurt on a West Coast road trip in November. Kenny Atkinson — who insists there’s no danger of detachment from the team — said that’s not going to change as long as their rehab is better served at home. But he said that could change eventually. “No, we’re around them enough. I always hark back to the priority’s got to be what’s best for them from a rehab standpoint. That overrides everything,” Atkinson said. “And sometimes they want to come, and we’re like ‘No, you need to be on the AlterG at home.’

Kevin Durant rules out return this year

One day after his mother, Wanda, was seen on TODAY saying, “I know he’s not going to play this year,” Durant told Rooks the same thing. It was his most definitive statement on the subject of his return. When Rooks asked KD if there was any chance he’s coming back this season, Durant first responded, “No, I don’t think so,. Not for now,” Rooks demanded and got a definiite answer. “NO! No. The best thing for me is to continue the rehab, get as strong as I can and focus on next season,” he said, after admitting he’s itching to play.

“Well I know he’s not going to play this year,” Mrs. Durant told TODAY, continuing, “Which I’m glad because he doesn’t have the pressure. It’s bittersweet because I see a calmness in him even in this (rehab). Because he was injured before and he was frantic. “I’m not saying he doesn’t want to play. Of course he wants to play and play with his teammates, but he’s accepted the fact that this is not the time for him to play and he’s going through the process of healing. And he’s growing as a person.”

Kevin Durant, now 31, is out with a torn Achilles. The Nets owe him $164,255,700 over the next four years. John Wall, now 29, is out with a torn Achilles. The Wizards owe him $171,131,520 over the next four years. Yet, Brooklyn is viewed to have a bright future in large part due to Durant. Washington is viewed to have a grim outlook in large part due to Wall. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis called out the dichotomy. Leonsis on The Habershow: “Why is everyone so positive – Kevin Durant has the same injury as John Wall and is older.”

Kevin Durant says he's not coming back this season

Asked by Stephen A. Smith if he completely ruled out the possibility he could play this season, Durant said “yes,” and replied “I don’t plan on it” to a quick follow-up. The Nets last month tried to douse talk of a Durant return, with GM Sean Marks saying the team isn’t planning on Durant playing. But Marks did add that “ultimately Kevin will have a large say in when he comes back and how he’s feeling.”

The Nets won’t push Durant but there is always the chance Durant could push the Nets. The normal recovery time for his injury is six to eight months. Durant could, in theory, make his Nets debut in March. Dr. Fred Cushner, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery who has dealt with NBA players for two decades, told The Athletic that while Durant’s ligament “will heal in six months, that’s only part of the picture because he has to get his strength back and be in game shape.”

Though Nets GM Sean Marks refused to rule Durant out for the season, the feeling within the league is trending toward him potentially playing this season. “I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it’s appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for,” said Dinwiddie, who points out that even a slightly-diminished Durant could still be a superstar. “The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we’re ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he’s ready to do so, and we know that he’s going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster.”

Kevin Durant back this season?

Though Nets GM Sean Marks refused to rule Durant out for the season, the feeling within the league is trending toward him potentially playing this season. “I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it’s appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for,” said Dinwiddie, who points out that even a slightly-diminished Durant could still be a superstar.

“The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we’re ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he’s ready to do so, and we know that he’s going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster.” New Nets CEO David Levy told The Post that Durant’s comeback is something the team could even chronicle. “When you start thinking about the Kevin Durant comeback story and filming that, just opportunities,” Levy said.

John Wall: I don’t like to talk about other team doctors or whatever, but if you watched Kevin, the whole time before he played that Game 5, if you watch where he was icing at, or when he had his injury, I know what a calf strain is like. I know what an Achilles injury is like. When you look back like that, I knew it was an Achilles injury from the start. I can’t diagnose what those doctors said. But if you look where he was icing his leg, it was the Achilles the whole time. I had a teammate, Sheldon Mac, that tore his Achilles the same way and once he made that same move, I knew exactly what it was. I talk to Kevin all the time. We’re great friends. He’s doing great. He’s taking his time, I guess. I don’t know. I just wish him the best. He’s one of those guys, if he has the Achilles or not, it’s not going to affect him, I feel, because he can score at all levels.

Kevin Durant seems to be making great progress — because the NBA superstar was out in Los Angeles on Wednesday … cruisin’ around the restaurant scene WITHOUT crutches! Remember, Durant tore his right Achilles on June 12 during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals … but the recovery is expected to be so tough, he could miss the entire 2019-20 season. Which is why we were so impressed when we saw KD walking out of Catch restaurant in L.A. — sure, there was a little hitch in his giddy up … but overall, he was moving pretty well.

Now Jordan is talking about not only his new team, but also his old friend — and how Durant is recovering from his ruptured Achilles, arguably the most-watched body part in New York City. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team,” Jordan told Gothamist during a promotional event Wednesday at a Dunkin’ in Midtown Manhattan. “You know obviously Kevin had a tough injury, he’s going to be out for a while, but he’s progressing great, he’s recovering fast, we’ll be even better when we get him back and healthy.”

Durant’s familiarity and comfort level with the Nets medical staff was a major determining factor in him ultimately signing a deal to come to Brooklyn. While most critics are scoffing at the thought of Durant seeing the hardwood this upcoming season, according to Weinfeld, Durant’s chances are exceedingly better than that of injured Wizards star John Wall’s. “A point guard plays a different kind of game than Kevin Durant does,” noted Dr. Weinfeld. “An explosive type athlete, his demand is different than that of Kevin Durant’s. You talk about odds of coming back to where he was, I think Durant’s odds are better than an athlete like John Wall whose whole game is quickness and explosiveness. He [Wall] counts much more on those muscles being exactly where they need to be as opposed to a player like Durant and his style.

While many expect not to see either Wall or Durant until the 2020-2021 season, Dr. Weinfeld is confident that Durant can return to the player fans saw lead the Warriors to two championships, three straight finals appearances, and dominate the NBA as a two-time Finals MVP and league MVP. “I think he’ll probably be somewhere between 90 and 100 percent,” stated Dr. Weinfeld. “That’s my thought assuming everything goes smoothly and he doesn’t have any setbacks I think you can expect somehwere in the 90 to 100 percent range.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Marks, though, refused to speculate about when Durant could potentially return to the court. “He will be evaluated with the performance team and so forth,” Marks said. “I think a timeline will be given in due time, but as of now, we’re certainly not going to comment on when or if and make any sort of hypotheticals. It’s too early.” Both Nets leaders were also asked about the process of integrating Irving — who is coming off a tumultuous season in Boston — into the mix in Brooklyn.

A leading Achilles expert, Dr. Anish Kadakia, of Northwestern University, has reviewed studies showing 85% of NBA players who suffer Achilles tendon ruptures don’t last more than two seasons after their return. According to Kadakia, 68% return and 32% never play again. Further, it takes until the second season back for the player to return to his normal ability, taking into consideration “aged matched controls,” he said. “Very few players play past two seasons,’’ Kadakia told The Post. “Two seasons and that’s it. But after two years and you’re still playing, studies show you’ll be as good as you’d be as if you didn’t rupture — factoring in decline with age. You probably haven’t lost anything but time. But in three years, it’s not the same Durant from three weeks ago.”

In explaining why Durant won’t be the same sniper in 2020-21, Kadakia said it’s jumping and speed. The surgically repaired leg regains just 95 percent of the power of the healthy leg. “When you shoot, you jump,” he said. “You’re jump is off because you don’t have as much power in one leg than the other. You play your whole career based on how much height and quick reaction you get when you want to shoot. Some can’t do that anymore, no longer able to push off like you were before. “And speed is heavily affected, making the quick cut. You lose a little of that power, when you want to push off as hard as you want. An elite athlete losing 5 percent power makes big difference.’’
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