If Las Vegas was at least acknowledging that it could happen, we all thought it could actually happen.
Caesars Sportsbook lowered Brooklyn’s championship odds from 750-1 to 60-1 on speculation that Kevin Durant could return from his Achilles tendon injury when the NBA resumes. https://t.co/Qb7Ko706mz
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 5, 2020
But on Friday, Kevin Durant put Vegas – and all of us, for that matter – back in our place.
“It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.” pic.twitter.com/ONrQKkFc0C
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 6, 2020
In a lengthy interview with Marc Spears for The Undefeated, Durant talked about a multitude of issues facing the country, from the death of George Floyd to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, basketball was discussed as well, and Durant put an end to the rumors that he might return for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, which will commence on July 31.
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.
Kevin Durant’s black pride is stronger than ever. The #Nets forward talks about the tragic death of George Floyd, COVID-19, when he’ll play for the Nets this and much more in @TheUndefeated. https://t.co/nSGLjGc9Uw #NBA
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) June 6, 2020
On June 10, 2019, then-Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant suffered a torn right Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, ruling him out for the rest of the Finals and presumably, the 2019-20 season.
But, what no one could predict was what shape the 2019-20 NBA season would assume.
The NBA suspended play on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this week, it was announced that the league will resume the season beginning July 31 at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
At the latest, the season will end on Oct. 12, before targeting a Dec. 1 start for the 2020-21 season.
Target NBA schedule from ’19-’20 to ’20-’21 season
∙ Training camp – July 9-11
∙ ’19-’20 season – July 31-Oct. 12
∙ Draft lottery – Aug. 25
∙ NBA Draft – Oct. 15
∙ Free agency – Oct. 18
∙ ’20-’21 training camp – Nov. 10
∙ ’20-’21 season start – Dec. 1
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 4, 2020
In short, come this summer, NBA fans will enjoy a lot of basketball over the next 12 months.
The question then became, how much of that basketball would include Durant?
During this past offseason, despite his devastating injury, the Brooklyn Nets executed a sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors that landed the 31-year old Durant in Brooklyn.
Durant proceeded to sign a 4-year, $164 million contract with the Nets with a player option for year four – technically, he could possibly spend only two years in Brooklyn considering he was scheduled to sit out the entirety of this season and he could opt out heading into his final year.
Based on the original 2019-20 schedule, Game 1 of the NBA Finals would have taken place on Thursday, and if there were a Game 7, it would have taken place on June 21. Essentially, Durant would be given an entire year to heal and prepare for the 2020-21 NBA season, even though the timeline to recover from an Achilles injury varies but usually lingers around 9 months.
For context, the late Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles on April 12, 2013, and made his return to the court on Dec. 8 of that year, a little less than eight months after suffering the injury.
DeMarcus Cousins suffered the injury on Jan. 26, 2018, and returned to the court on Jan. 18, 2019, a few days shy of being sidelined for a year.
So, how far along is Durant in his recovery? Well, this footage is from February:
Footage of Kevin Durant getting some shots up. It looks like rehab is coming along nicely for KD💪pic.twitter.com/rnFCHRjlPc
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) February 19, 2020
So is this footage:
Kevin Durant’s injury recovery process continues now with pull-up jumpers pic.twitter.com/dJfSa3y9JH
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) February 25, 2020
And this, posted on his brother Tony’s Instagram story, is from March:
Oh my goodness Kevin Durant! 👀
(via tdurant / Instagram) pic.twitter.com/jO7hLvceJk
— Christopher Lavinio (@ChrisLavinio) March 10, 2020
In his interview with Spears, KD gave us an update on his current status.
I’m doing well. Working out every day. I’m moving. I’m feeling like a normal player again. I’m just in my summertime routine. I’m working out every day and going to the gym in the morning. So, I feel good.
With the season set to resume on July 31, it will have been nearly 14 months since Durant suffered his injury at the conclusion of last season, and with that, it seemed possible he could return this season for a Brooklyn squad that is one of 22 teams invited to join the NBA bubble in Orlando.
A reminder of how the standings look and who’s heading to Orlando 👀 pic.twitter.com/X1ottDknIA
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 4, 2020
However, Durant told Spears that even though he feels good, jumping back into the playoffs this summer wouldn’t be a wise move for his career.
It’s just best for me to wait. 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.
As of early Friday, opinion was across the board as to whether Durant should return this season if healthy, especially considering NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that if injured players, such as Durant, are healthy enough to return for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, the league will allow it.
“We’re gonna allow it … 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.”
With that, former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy said early Friday that if he were Durant’s coach, he would want Durant to come back this season if completely healthy, moreso for Durant to begin regaining confidence heading into next season.
“If healthy and the doctors clear him and he feels good about his chance to be successful and play well, certainly [I’d want him to play] … I think it breaks through some mental barriers and gets him a better start going into next year as well.”
However, Van Gundy also added that if Durant would have made a return, Brooklyn shouldn’t have expected too much too soon from their superstar.
“If Kevin Durant is back and he’s the old Kevin Durant, they can beat anybody. He’s that good. He’s that big of a difference maker. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen his ability to absolutely dominate games. But I think that would be a stretch.”
Durant isn’t the only player that’s missing from the Nets nucleus. Superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, who signed with the Nets in free agency over the summer, played in only 20 games this season, as he battled a right shoulder impingement.
On March 3, Irving underwent surgery on the shoulder, and it was also believed he’d be sidelined for the remainder of the season.
As of late, there hadn’t been much news to the contrary, but with the season being pushed back, it seemed an Irving return was also possible.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski squashed those rumors on Friday as well.
Kyrie Irving suggested on the NBPA conference call today that it’s possible he could join the Nets in Orlando this summer — as an inactive player supporting his teammates, sources said. Irving had season-ending shoulder surgery on March 3. https://t.co/MKrfaGQhwy
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2020
Durant has postseason career averages of 29.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists, while Irving maintains playoff averages of 23.5 points and 5.0 assists.
Durant’s playoff average of 29.1 points is fourth best in NBA history, trailing only Michael Jordan (33.4), Allen Iverson (29.7) and Jerry West (29.13).
Needless to say, KD and Irving would have greatly enhanced the Nets’ chances at competing for a title, and as intriguing as it would have been, not everyone was onboard from the start, including Shannon Sharpe.
“I just don’t see him playing. I know he had surgery on that Achilles on June 12, 2019, so we’re coming up on a year … [but] I don’t believe they’re gonna get the normal rest that they would get if they were playing during the season. So you got these eight games that are gonna have to be played in a very short amount of time, and then you’re gonna have to start the [playoffs] … I just think that’s asking an awful lot.”
“The season is about to be condensed and you’ll be asking a lot from KD… I don’t see KD playing this year, the risk is too great versus what the reward would be.”
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) June 5, 2020
As it turns out, Sharpe and Durant were on the same page.
Until next season, KD.