The Brooklyn Nets star has not played an NBA game for nearly seven weeks. That left Kevin Durant fielding plenty of questions about his strained left hamstring, which has kept him sidelined for the past 20 games and counting.
“I feel great,” Durant said Thursday before the Nets played the Charlotte Hornets. “I feel like it’ll be soon that I can be out there with my teammates.”
Yet, Durant did not just address his injury and subsequent rehab. Durant also apologized for having an argument with comedian Michael Rapaport on Twitter via direct message, a private conversation that Rapaport made public because of Durant’s frequent personal insults, homophobic slurs and profanity.
“I’m sorry that people have seen that language I’ve used,” Durant said. “It’s not really what I want people to see and hear from me. But hopefully I can move past it and get back on the floor.”
Durant is active on his social media accounts and often responds directly to media members and fans that criticize him.
“It was a private conversation with him and the other party,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of Durant’s exchange with Rapaport. “We’ve talked about it internally. But we’ll keep all of that stuff internal.”
The Nets sounded more forthcoming, however, about Durant’s injury. That started with whether Durant could return for the Nets’ back-to-back in Chicago on Sunday or against New York on Monday.
“I doubt he would play in either of those games, but he’s progressing,” Nash said. “We’re monitoring it and continuing to push and finding him opportunities within that structure to get high-intensity loads in so we can measure for when it’s safe for him to come back and play. Everything is progressing the way we’d like, and fingers crossed it won’t be too long.”
When that will be remains unclear.
Durant said he has spent the past month working out in the weight room, improving his conditioning and occasional games of four-on-four. Though Durant has completed in a full-court scrimmage, he argued the next step has more to do with “running up and down the floor as opposed to having five guys out there.”
“It’s good to get a few of those sessions in before I want to jump into an NBA game,” Durant said. “That’s what we’ve been doing the last few days and what we’ll do going forward.”
Durant has become accustomed to sitting for extended periods of time on the sideline.
He missed the entire 2019-20 season, his first with Brooklyn, after rupturing his right Achilles tendon in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, which marked his final game with the Golden State Warriors. Before that, Durant missed nine playoff games because of a strained right calf.
Before his most recent absence, Durant missed nine games this season due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols (six) and for maintenance on his Achilles (three).
“Being patient is the key,” Durant said. “Just knowing that we got a long season and I knew that I had some time to recover and still be able to play in the regular season. I was optimistic about that. It sucks not to play the game. But there’s much worse that can happen.”
Durant injured his left hamstring against the Warriors on Feb 13. Then, Durant believed he had just suffered a Grade 1 strain, and the Nets announced he would miss at least the next two games. But then the Nets ruled Durant out through at least NBA All-Star weekend (March 7) after a second MRI. Durant said that test confirmed his strain “was a little deeper” than Grade 1.
“I didn’t feel a ton of pain. But you don’t want to force one of these injuries where you go out there and make it worse,” Durant said. “In my mind I was like, ‘I can play.’ But you got to be smart and cautious with this type of injury. I tried to patient with it all and rehab as hard as a I can.”
Fortunately for the Nets (33-15), they still have the Eastern Conference’s best record and have gone 17-3 during his absence. Though the Nets have also had some overlapping absences to their two other stars in Kyrie Irving (15 games) and James Harden (three), never did those absences coincide with the other. The Nets have also recently acquired former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market. Had the Nets not been as successful, Durant bristled about whether that would have affected the timing of his return.
“I don’t even what to think about the hypothetical you presented to me,” Durant said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened if we weren’t winning games. I don’t think no one would’ve forced me to play. They just wanted me to get healthy. I probably wouldn’t have forced it either.”
Durant also thrived in the 19 games he played this season. He averaged 29 points while shooting 52.4% from the field and 43.4% from 3-point range along with 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Should he maintain that production whenever he returns, Durant would eclipse the career averages he has posted in all of those areas in his 13th NBA season.
“I’ll figure that out over time whenever I get out there,” Durant said. “Whatever position coach puts me in, I’m looking forward to trying to conquer that as best as I can.”
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