Nets' Kevin Durant looks on during the first half of an...

Nets' Kevin Durant looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The NBA on Thursday announced plans to restart the season on July 31, and the next day, Nets superstar Kevin Durant moved quickly to announce he does not plan to return this season while continuing his rehab from Achilles tendon surgery. Durant revealed his plans in a wide-ranging interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

From the beginning of training camp last September, the Nets said it was expected Durant would sit out the entire season after undergoing surgery last June 12. But the four-month pause in the NBA season because of the COVID-19 pandemic offered hope Durant might be healthy enough to play this season.

Durant quashed that hope when he told Spears: “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all.”

Explaining his decision to stick to a plan established last summer after he signed a four-year deal worth $164 million with the Nets, Durant said he learned from past experiences with injuries when he came back to soon. That was a contributing factor when he came back from a two-month absence to play Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 11 and suffered a ruptured Achilles after 10 minutes of play.

Unlike the situation with the Warriors and an earlier injury when he was with the Thunder, the Nets never pressured Durant to rush his comeback. “I was putting pressure on myself in previous injuries wanting to hurry up and come back,” Durant told Spears. “This time, I felt like I was more patient throughout the process mentally and not rushing myself mentally…I’m taking things second by second, and I’m trying to look out for what is best long-term.

“Coming back to play a little too early a few times…I feel like going through those times prepared me for now. I understand this injury is going to take longer than others. I just got to be more patient. Lord knows I want to go out there and play. But I just have to make sure everything is right with my body to be the best version of myself.”

Before the NBA stoppage on March 11, Durant had been taking part in three-on-three and even five-on-five workouts. “I’m doing well,” said Durant, who has been working out in Los Angeles. “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.”

Shortly after the season paused, Durant announced he was one of four Nets who tested positive for COVID-19, and he discussed that experience with ESPN. He admitted his shock at the initial diagnosis, but fortunately, he remained asymptomatic.

Durant said he’s curious to see what the NBA will look like with no fans in Orlando. “It’s just so confusing,” Durant said. “Going forward, things will change, and we will adapt. It’s a weird time…They’re going to the bubble [at Disney World]. No fans in the stands. It’s a new normal. It’s a confusing time for everybody.”

Durant said he is looking forward to making his Nets debut when the 2020-21 season begins sometime in December. “It will mean a lot,” Durant said. “I can’t wait to play the game again and be out there with my new team working for a goal that we all want to accomplish.”

Beyond basketball, Durant also spoke to ESPN about protests over the death of George Floyd resulting from police brutality. “The world has had enough,” Durant said. “It’s been so good to see so many different ethnicities coming together to bring awareness to what we’ve been talking about for awhile now…To finally see the world come together…you can tell that, when we move as one, we’re pretty powerful.”

Irving update. ESPN reported that Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, who had shoulder surgery in early March, told people on an NBPA conference call on Friday that he is permitted to accompany the team to Orlando even as an inactive player. That is an indication that he is not likely to play again this season. 

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