Opinion: Warriors’ Kevin Durant buckling up for his longest year after Achilles injury

OAKLAND, Calif. – Maybe Kevin Durant reaches out to Kobe Bryant, or Bryant reaches out to Durant.

Bryant has become the modern-day sage when it comes to a ruptured Achilles since tearing his in 2013. Bryant has talked to Durant’s teammate DeMarcus Cousins and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, both of whom sustained serious Achilles injuries.

But no matter what Durant hears from others, he is in for a long year mostly away from the game he loves. Rehabbing an Achilles rupture is slow and difficult, testing a player’s mental fortitude as much as his or her physical limits.

“It’s a tough process, straight up,” Cousins said Wednesday. “Nobody will really understand that type of injury unless you go through it. It’s more mental than anything.”

Bryant once said the immediate aftermath of an Achilles tear “feels like the darkest moment.”

Durant knows that feeling right now, too.

“I’m hurting deep in the soul right now, I can’t lie,” Durant posted on social media Monday night. His mood hadn’t changed much following surgery on Wednesday, writing on Instagram, “I’m hurting deeply, but I’m OK.”

Durant has been injured before. He played in just 27 games in 2014-15 with Oklahoma City after needing two surgeries on his right foot. But he has never missed as much time as he’s going to miss now – almost certainly all of the 2019-20 season, perhaps longer.


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At the end of the 2015 season when he needed another foot surgery – which took place at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where he had his Achilles repaired – Durant took to social media and posted, “When quit and negativity are staring me in my face, I will stay strong and disciplined. And I won’t do it on my own, my closest friends and family are here to help and that’s something I will be forever grateful for.”

He will need that similar attitude and support from family and friends because Durant will go a long time without doing any kind of physical activity he is used to doing. He will go perhaps the longest stretch of his life without shooting a basketball. The rehab process will require baby steps, and daily progress won’t be visible.

Jun 10, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) sits on the court after an apparent injury during the second quarter in game five against the Toronto Raptors of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

It will be incredibly frustrating for Durant andthe longest stretch of his basketball-playing life without playing basketball. But he can also use it as motivation to return and try to be the kind of player he was before the injury.

The long year ahead for Durant also includes a much different summer than he anticipated. Durant can be a free agent after this season, and he was expected to explore his opportunities. Maybe he would return to the Warriors or perhaps he would decide to team with another star and try to win a championship elsewhere. 

How this injury affects his free agency and the free agency of others will play out in July, but now there are different factors to consider. Durant’s injury not only alters his future, but the future of other players, teams and the NBA.

Durant had a difficult decision to make before the injury, but it would’ve been a decision he made while looking forward to playing next season during the prime of his career.

There is no next season for Durant. Just a long year ahead.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

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