ORLANDO, Fla. — With a two-day break in his rehab process to recover from a third surgery on his right foot, Kevin Durant came here to take in some summer league basketball and support the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I’ve been in OKC since the season ended, since I had surgery,” Durant said. “These are my two off days, so I just tried to get out and see some basketball, check out the guys.”
Durant said his rehab is entering “Phase 3,” with him on the floor taking jump shots but not running and cutting yet. He said everything is on track and that he expects to be fully cleared sometime in August.
“We’re doing X-rays every two weeks, and it’s looking good,” he said. “So I’m excited to get back, man. There’s no pain, and looking forward to getting back.”
Durant had his most recent surgery in late March, which ruled him out for the remainder of the 2014-15 season and put a four- to six-month timetable on his return. It was part of a difficult season for the former MVP that included two other surgeries on the same foot to try to repair a Jones fracture, the first being in October.
He played in only 27 games as the Thunder won 45 games but missed the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker.
“It was tough, it was tough,” Durant said. “But it’s all part of the journey I’m on, man. I’m just going to continue to stay positive and keep working hard, and everything will work out.”
The adversity-filled season was something new for Durant, who had missed only 16 games in his seven-year career before last season. But the 26-year-old said he is trying to put a positive spin on it and use the trials of last season to make him better.
“Looking back on it now, there’s a lot of stuff I would’ve changed, but it was necessary to go through what I had to go through, mentally, and I’m in a great space right now,” he said. “Maybe because I’m closer and closer to playing again, but I’m in a great space.”
What would he have changed?
“Just stuff I said,” Durant said. “Sometimes I let a lot of stuff bother me that I shouldn’t have. I read a lot of stuff that I probably shouldn’t have. Lesson learned for me. Trial and error.
“It is what it is, man. I’m just trying to continue focusing on getting better and rehabbing and killing that part of this journey and hopefully getting ready for next season.”
Durant, who has always been known for his slim physique, looked noticeably bigger. He had been in a walking boot up until a few weeks ago and only recently has been able to increase his workout activity.
“I think I gotta lose some weight to be honest,” he said. “But I’ve been putting in a lot of work in the weight room. I haven’t moved at all for 12 or 13 weeks, so last week was really the first time I’ve got on the court and dropped some sweat. I’ve just been working out in the weight room and eating and just resting up, so like I said last week was really the first time I got on the court.”
With NBA free agency in full swing, Durant said he has been an interested observer in watching where players land. He said he was not surprised LaMarcus Aldridge made the jump to join the San Antonio Spurs.
“You could kind of tell once this whole thing started that he was trying to go somewhere else,” Durant said. “But in those decisions, man, you’ve just got to respect the guy for making a decision that was right for him. I know a lot of fans were probably upset in Portland with the decision. But at this point of your life and your career, you’ve got to focus on you. I said this last year when Mr. James made his decision, it was pretty cool to see a guy do what he wants to do and not worry about what everybody thinks.”
Durant’s free-agency decision looms next summer. With all the attention Aldridge got, has Durant let his mind run to wonder what it will be like for him?
“No, I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I hear it all the time, but I really am just focusing on rehab. I can’t get there unless I take care of today. That’s the way I look at it even though I hear it from every side, thinking past to next summer. But I’m not even trying to focus on that.”
Describing last season as “the toughest year I’ve ever been through in my life, as far as basketball is concerned,” Durant said he wants to keep his attention toward 2015-16 only.
“My main thing is just getting rid of distractions and focusing on what I have to do,” he said. “I just can’t wait to play the game I love again. That’s all I’m focused on.”
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