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Stein: Lot of reasons to think Kevin Durant can come back at high level

Denver Nuggets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In his newsletter, Marc Stein offers an intriguing look into what the Nets —and NBA— should expect from Kevin Durant once he returns from his Achilles tear ... whenever that is.

Stein answered a question from a reader who suggested that the “NBA consensus” had “overestimated” the possibility of a full recovery by KD, arguing that so many other players had failed to return from the injury.

The Times basketball writer was having none of it, first noting that “consensus” isn’t the right word. He first breaks down where we are...

There was no shortage of naysayers who immediately said he would never be the same after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals. So a successful Durant comeback is hardly considered an automatic.

The reality is that no one knows how Durant will bounce back a mere six months into his rehabilitation. Just don’t forget that the biggest names were all older than Durant when faced with an Achilles’ tear, which complicated their comebacks.

Dominique was 32. Isiah Thomas was 32 and never played again. Kobe Bryant was 34. Chauncey Billups was 35. Patrick Ewing was 36.

The daunting history of difficulties so many N.B.A. players have faced in recovering from an Achilles’ injury is well documented.

However, Stein notes that aside from age, KD has other advantages...

Is Durant given more benefit of the doubt because he has such elite skill? That’s only part of it.

It also helps that he was just 30 when the injury occurred, carries so little weight on his slender frame and is regarded as a dogged worker in the gym — as Wilkins was when he made it back to an All-Star level. I would have bet on a robust Kobe comeback in his early 30s for the same reason.

So, Stein thinks we should be optimistic...

I fall into the category forecasting more of a Nique-style comeback (or even better) because of Durant’s relentless work ethic — and because his offensive brilliance is not reliant on at-the-rim explosion.

Finally, he takes a shot at the Knicks and James Dolan, who reportedly wasn’t enamored of taking a risk on Durant’s achilles.

I would also argue that for all the risk involved, 29 other teams would have signed Durant to the contract the Nets did if they’d had the chance.

That includes the Knicks — no matter what was said or leaked about their reluctance after the fact. Durant’s talent is too tantalizing.

Does Stein have inside information? He doesn’t say so, but his comments indicate he’s keeping track of the situation. Very closely.

Meanwhile, KD spoke to Forbes Steve Bartoni about his business, Thirty Five Ventures, and his game. The numbers Bartoni throws around when talking about KD’s investments are staggering. He’ll make $70 million this season in salary and endorsements and that could lead to a fortune of a half billion dollars before he’s finished — generational wealth as the saying goes, enough money to ensure generations of the Durant family will be more than comfortable. He’s already plowed $15 million into 40-plus startups.

He spoke about one route.

“I want to own and run an NBA team, run day-to-day operations and impact young players coming through the league. I started down here [touching the floor]. I know there’ll be kids popping up in my family, and I want them to start above this roof.

“The only way to get there for your family is to create money, and I want to do it in a cooler way, not just being greedy and accumulating as much as I can.”

But Durant spoke as well as his team and how they can grow.

“The team is in the garage stage, where we are putting the idea together. It’s more intimate, everyone understands the goal and has a fresh experience. A championship would be a whole other level, but injecting a new energy into a city through basketball would be even cooler.”

Durant didn’t talk about his return, but as Stein suggested, it’s in the air.