It’s now only a matter of time — maybe as little as a month — before we FINALLY see Kevin Durant step on the court in a Brooklyn Nets uniform. The NBA season starts on December 22, but it’s anticipated that teams will play three preseason games. not long after training camp begins on December 1. Will Nets use him in those games? Stay tuned.
But what will he look like when he takes the court? Will he be the same KD or enough of the old KD so that no one cares? Achilles ruptures are tricky, of course, and there’s a long history of players not coming back at the same level. But the players often cited in those comparisons were older than KD and sports medicine and sports science have advanced.
Going back to his time with the “extra work group” prior to the COVID outbreak, those who scrimmaged with him spoke positively of what they saw...
“If he gets better than what he is right now, it is going to be a long season next year for whoever is guarding him.” Chris Chiozza famously said. “It is totally different when you see him scoring 40 points on TV than when you see him score 40 points on you, it is a lot different.”
“How does Kevin look when he comes back?,” Sean Marks asked rhetorically. “I can tell you now he looks pretty darn good.”
But that was based on the March version of Kevin Durant. In recent days, we’ve seen video here and there of the Nets, including Durant, working out at The Academy in Los Angeles, along with other current and former NBA players.
The most optimistic had to Isaiah Thomas’ comment on Wednesday in a tweet. Thomas, on the road back from injury himself, tweeted this...
Haha crazy thing is he’s even BETTER now!!! Just hooped with him the other week OMG https://t.co/06eBfnde2w— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) November 11, 2020
And Brian Lewis writes Tuesday...
John Wall and even retired Gilbert Arenas flew in and gushed over Durant’s form on “The No Chill Podcast.”
“For me, I’m playing in Miami, it’s cool; but playing against Kevin Durant and Kyrie, if I’m doing that, then all right, bet: I’m good. We can start the season,” said Wall, who like Durant is rehabbing from an injury that cost him the entire 2019-20 season. “Miami’s cool, but you’re playing against them two …”
Those two being Durant and Irving,
Arenas, showing obvious excitement about Durant, detailed what he saw...
“In-season, [Durant] is going to come out attacking. He’s going to hit you first. That’s what he’s taught: Hit you first, then dial it back down and hit you again, then dial it back and go,” Arenas said.
“So here, when I see him, that’s all I’m waiting for because you’ve got to remember, he’s coming off an injury too. So the mindset is the most important. How is he gonna start the game? Let’s me know where he’s at, at this point.”
Where Durant was at was draining his first five shots in that pickup game, all on hesitation pull-ups. From that point, Wall and Arenas could tell he was back.
“KD started the game 5-for-5. Out of those five shots, what were they? Left hesi[tation]. He just lulls them to sleep,” Wall said.
“Just left hesi pull-up: Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And then, once he was done with that, he goes back to his regular stuff,” added Arenas.
Wall is coming off his own Achilles rupture and according to Arenas, both he and Durant look good.
“As soon as he comes out, he shoots the first [five] shots, goes 5-for-5. … As soon as he comes down, pop, pop. There we go, [he’s] all right,” said Arenas. “So, both the boys [Durant and Wall] are back. That’s all you’re trying to make sure: You’re mentally back. You did the physical part: Now, it’s this [mental] part, making sure all those doors [are] unlocked so when the season hits, you have an open game.
“That’s basically where it’s at, making sure the game is open, making sure the thought process is clear — you’re not second-guessing your jumper, you’re not second-guessing your drive, you’re not second-guessing your creativity. [We’ve] seen it, coming down, fast break behind-the-back layup. OK, there we go.”
There’s also this: Nets players have been working out with each other. Here’s a video posted two days ago showing KD, Kyrie, Caris LeVert and DeAndre Jordan working out ... with former Net, Jeremy Lin...
Beyond his physical preparedness, Durant believes that the 561 days he’ll have between his June 2019 injury and December 2020 return have helped him mentally.
“I just appreciate being in the gym, the workouts, the 1-on-1 sessions because of the injury. Now, I just appreciate just being in there with the other guys. I miss, you know, the whole routine,” he told “Stewie’s World” podcast back in August. (“Stewie” is Breanna Stewart who led the Seattle Storm to a WNBA title after blowing out her Achilles.)
“So doing it now every single day, I have a newfound, evolved level of joy for it. I feel like I’m growing every day I feel I’m having a kid-like joy every time I step on that court. That’s all I really wanted to have, to continue to have. I didn’t want to lose the love for the game because of an injury. It this point now, I just enjoy waking up and getting to the gym every day.”
You’ll likely to see and hear a lot of punditry on Durant as the games approach, but perhaps the most in-depth look at how KD’s game will be affected came from Mike Prada, our former SB Nation colleague last week. Making extensive use of statistical analysis and film, Prada wrote that he believes KD’s versatility will enable him to return to the Kevin of old.
What made Kevin Durant such an unstoppable offensive player before his Achilles tear? The simple answer is, well, simple: he is lethal from almost every spot on the court. He’s great at shooting threes off the catch, threes off the dribble, mid-range jumpers, layups, floaters, turnarounds, one-legged fadeaways, stepbacks, rise-ups, dunks, scoop shots, wrong-footed finishes, bullshit like this … the list goes on.
So, we wait, but now we finally have a date to look forward to ... and yes, we are looking forward.
- Kevin Durant’s peers are gushing over how well he’s playing - Brian Lewis - New York Post