Nets superstar Kevin Durant on Friday ruled himself out of playing for the remainder of the 2019-20 season when the NBA resumes play on July 31 at Disney World in Orlando. Durant made the first definitive comments on plans for his return from Achilles tendon surgery to Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.
Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals last season and had surgery on June 12. He had been taking part in three-on-three and even five-on-five scrimmages shortly before the NBA paused the season on March 11 because of the pandemic, and it seemed as if a delay of more than four months might create an opening for him to play this season after all.
But that won’t happen. As Durant told Spears: “It’s just best for me to wait. I don’t think I’m ready to play with 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.
“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.”
From the time the Nets signed Durant to a four-year deal worth $164 million last summer, the expectation was that he would sit out the entire season. General manager Sean Marks repeatedly has said there is no pressure from the organization for Durant to return and that the ultimate decision would be up to him.
After testing positive for the coronavirus, from which he recovered, and after his rehab was interrupted by the shutdown, Durant obviously has decided to err on the side of caution.
Describing his rehab process to Spears, Durant said: “I had to reset and totally focus on just me and what I wanted out of this thing. For the first time, I felt like I was in my own space rehabbing. I didn’t feel like I had to be part of the team and travel with the team and do everything like I was playing. I could really take my time and focus on myself each and every day. I didn’t feel rushed at all. That was a great space to be in.”
The Nets also have been without superstar Kyrie Irving, who signed a four-year deal worth $142 million and then played only 20 games before undergoing shoulder surgery on March 3. ESPN reported that Irving has inquired if non-active players can attend games in Orlando without counting against the 35-member traveling party, suggesting that he also has no plans to return this season.