Kevin Durant: Being back for USA minicamp like 'basketball heaven'

ByRamona Shelburne ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

LAS VEGAS -- Four months after his latest foot surgery, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant says that he "can go 100 percent" but hasn't played in any 5-on-5 games yet as he takes a measured approach to this latest comeback.

"I've got to play against the guys to really see, but I feel like I'm back to myself," Durant said after the first day of training at this USA Basketball minicamp.

Asked if he could play in a game if needed, Durant laughed and said, "I haven't played since February, so of course, I'm human, I'd go through some rust. But I think after two trips down I'd be all right."

To say the workout at this minicamp was "light" on Tuesday is an understatement. The players in attendance mostly did layup lines, shooting drills and 5-on-0 offensive sets. The purpose of this camp in the non-Olympic year is more about team bonding than training.

But for a guy who has spent the past year rehabilitating a foot injury, mostly in solitude, Durant said it was like "Christmas" to be back out on a basketball court again with the best players in the game.

"Iron sharpens iron," Durant said. "I'd be a fool if I didn't get with any of these guys. If I wanted to be secretive about workouts, or be by myself, I'd be stupid to do that. To bounce ideas off of Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, Steph Curry, that's like heaven, like being in basketball heaven with these guys."

After a frustrating, injury-marred season in which he played just 27 games, Durant had surgery on his right foot in late March. He said that he felt better about four weeks after the surgery. He's been able to go full-speed for the last month, but has yet to play in 5-on-5 games.

It was the third surgery on his right foot in a year. The initial recovery time was estimated to be four to six months, which would put him on track to play opening night if all heals well. Durant suffered the initial injury, a Jones fracture, in October.

"I had my days where I'm like, 'Man, this isn't getting any better, I'm sick of working out, I've been working out for a year, I'm ready to play.' It was kind of like cabin fever almost," Durant said of the long recovery process. "I played a lot of (video game NBA) 2K and watched a lot of the NBA playoffs, even though I said I wouldn't. That atmosphere, I couldn't shy away from that so I just wanted to watch it and learn.

"It was tough, man, because I love to play the game and not being able to play at the highest level, it was tough for me. But I'm glad I went through that journey and it's made me a stronger man."

While Durant said he is completely focused on his recovery and on returning the Thunder to the NBA Finals after they missed the playoffs last season, the rest of the NBA has begun to turn its focus to his impending free agency in the summer of 2016.

"I know you guys have to do your job and ask those type of questions but I'm just trying to focus on being 100 percent committed to Oklahoma City and be the best player and leader I can be," Durant said. "I'll worry about that when I get there. I haven't even thought about being recruited. I'm just trying to go out there and not get cussed out by Russell Westbrook."

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