Much has happened since Kevin Durant last set foot on the court during an NBA game - on the basketball front, the Toronto Raptors won a maiden title, a global pandemic shredded calendars, legend Kobe Bryant breathed his last and a somewhat hurried restart in a 'bubble' saw Frank Vogel's Los Angeles Lakers win the championship for the first time since 2010, among others.
As for Durant's professional career, he is no more with the Golden State Warriors, the side he tried saving in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals before hobbling out with a ruptured Achilles. 540 days later, as he sits down to address the media, sporting the Brooklyn Nets training gear on Tuesday, he says he feels "good" and "solid".
"That [the injury] was definitely new. I had never experienced anything of that sort before. When I started to walk again, I needed assistance in whatever I did for three to four months and that was tough. I had two surgeries before and it took a few months [to recuperate] but recovering from Achilles [tear] took a longer time. I had to learn to walk, run and jump again," said the 32-year-old superstar.
Many, including former Warriors teammate Andre Iguodala, feel Durant is going to be named the 2021 MVP, but the power forward isn't too worried about individual honours. "I feel good playing. I'm not thinking about the awards at all. I'm only thinking about taking it a day at a time," he said.
On being asked about the brief stoppage caused by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old African American man, by a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last season, Durant said he supported the "Black Lives Matter" movement and lauded the NBA's handling of the situation.
"I was very proud of the NBA for allowing the players to raise their voice. The guys have been working towards this for years. My approach [this season] would be to continue to do what I do for my community and support the guys moving forward. We will see what happens," he said.
It remains to be seen whether the Nets’ Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving plan becomes a runaway hit, but Durant is aware of the expectations that have come alongside his move to Brooklyn. He said, "We both respect each other's games and know each other inside out. We know what good basketball... championship level basketball looks like. We chat every single day with the group and communicate what the best way is for us to play. It is still early in the season."
Even Irving is coming off a long layoff - having last played a game on February 1 before being ruled out with a shoulder niggle - but head coach Steve Nash believes both Durant and Irving are in excellent touch. "They are healthy, in shape and look great and so that's obviously the best scenario for us. The way they play off each other is a gift. They are both incredibly skilled, talented. We are fortunate to have two people of their calibre."
The rumour mills have been in overdrive regarding James Harden's potential move to Nets but Durant is unperturbed. "We are all professionals. We go about our days; work and go back home. If it happens, we are geared up for anything. I don't know who is making these stories up. James is a friend of mine. There is a lot of noise and I heard about his move but honestly, anybody can write a story. Nothing is said and done until it is said and done."
With a strong lineup, the Nets are being seen as strong contenders for the Finals from East, this season. Durant, however, wants to play it easy. "My only goal is to become the best version of myself every day individually. Outside noise from people hoping that we fail, that they see a show or get entertained by some drama... we cannot control that stuff. We are only worried about who we are individually and playing together as a unit each and every day," he added.
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