Kevin Durant ready to turn the page: Can't wait until first game

ByRoyce Young ESPN logo
Friday, April 17, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY -- After having a third surgery on his right foot, 2014 MVP Kevin Durant called this season the toughest year he's ever had playing basketball.

"I'm definitely pissed. I heard a lot of stuff during this time I've been injured from everybody. From different people. Definitely pissed," Durant, speaking at the Thunder's annual exit interviews, said Thursday, without specifically mentioning what was said or who said it. "Can't wait until the first game."

Durant underwent surgery in October to repair a Jones fracture and returned seven weeks later. He then sprained his ankle, missing two more weeks, and returned again only to sprain his left big toe, which caused him to miss more time.

After soreness in his surgically repaired right foot didn't subside, he had a second surgery to transition to a new screw to try to relieve discomfort. He returned to practice but was still experiencing pain, and the team and its medical consultants decided Durant should undergo a bone graft procedure that will sideline him for the next four to six months.

Durant was asked whether he had concerns with the history of big men and foot injuries.

"Bill Walton and Yao Ming had two totally different injuries than I had," Durant said. "I can remember a lot of people saying I was too small, too skinny. But now, all of a sudden, I'm a big man. So I don't know what you mean by that. It's two totally different injuries that I have from those guys.

"But I know for sure I'll be back. I know I'll put the work in. I know that I'm never going to just quit on anything, so I'm going to keep working until I get back right."

The Thunder missed the postseason for the first time since their inaugural campaign in Oklahoma City in 2008-09, going 45-37 but finishing ninth due to a tiebreaker held by the New Orleans Pelicans. The Thunder had Durant in only 27 games.

"It's definitely been the toughest year I've ever had playing basketball, but just try to look forward to and stay positive with it all and help my guys out," Durant said. "Every day I tell myself we're going to look back on this and smile and laugh at it and recognize this is just an obstacle we had to climb over to get to where we want to get to."

Durant had won four of the past five scoring titles but watched as teammate Russell Westbrook earned it this season with an average of 28.1 points per game. Playing without Durant for the majority of the season, Westbrook elevated his game to become an MVP candidate.

"It was amazing, man. It was amazing. It was so fun to watch," Durant said of Westbrook. "...It was just amazing to see the growth as a leader and a player. His intensity and his effort every single night is what kept us going. I'm excited that I get to play with a guy like that again, but I know it hurts him more than anything to not be in the playoffs.

"I wish I could've taken a lot of pressure off of him sometimes, but just seeing him grow was pretty cool, and seeing him get the respect he deserves was more important than anything to me."

Talk about whether the two can coexist next season bothered Durant.

"I couldn't really enjoy it as much because when I watch TV, I hear all this comparing two teammates together all the time," Durant said. "It's kind of tough to watch it sometimes. Then I hear everything -- you know, if Russ is playing well, then I'm getting traded, and all this other stupid stuff. I'm like, 'Let me just enjoy my teammate having success.' I just tried to shut all that stupid stuff off and enjoy this killing spree he went on these last few months."

Set to be a free agent in the summer of 2016, Durant was asked about his desire to remain with the Thunder.

"My concern is getting back healthy. That's all I'm worried about," Durant said. "I know that stuff is going to start to roll around here soon, but I'm just worried about getting healthy and playing again and doing something I love to do. I'm going to work my tail off to get back right, and that's all I'm focused on."

The 2015-16 campaign will carry a bright spotlight and a different kind of pressure. Durant, though, isn't concerned with that.

"Every year, you can't put too much pressure on it," he said. "If I go in saying, 'Oh, this is the biggest we've ever had.' ... Obviously we always want to win the championship, but from day one, you can't put too much pressure on yourself. You've just to go out and play and everything will take care of itself."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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