It will be a long one, and might cost the Warriors forward most — or even all — of the 2019-20 NBA season.
Kawhi Leonard knows that situation all too well.
The Toronto Raptors superstar played all but nine games last season while with the San Antonio Spurs due to a nagging quadriceps injury. His decision to remain out was questioned incessantly –- Spurs team doctors reportedly cleared him to return — though he never returned after Jan. 19 and ultimately ended up traded to Toronto in the offseason.
Durant was doubted and analyzed by armchair shrinks and analysts while recovering from a right calf strain, only to return in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and rupture his Achilles tendon in the same leg.
Now he’s down for a considerable stretch, with a long rehab and an even longer wait to regain the trademark explosiveness in his feet.
Leonard has been through the at-times agonizing rehabilitation side of the experience, and gave Durant some advice during his Wednesday press conference.
“Just from my own experience, I can talk from what I’ve been through,” Leonard said. “Like I said, we work so hard to get to this point and the game gets taken away from you, especially with leg injuries and things like that, you’re not really able to run or do anything on the floor.
“So you really just have to change your mindset on things and try to attack each day of getting better and just know that you’re going to play again one day. You want to come back as the player that you were. Make sure you come back when you feel healthy and you feel good enough that you feel confident enough in yourself to go back out there on the floor. Know that that day will come. And just like I said, attack each day. That’s your assignment, to get back to the thing that you love to do.”
Leonard’s injury was drastically different, but he has fully returned to dominant form. He has the Raptors just one win from an NBA championship, which he’ll try to secure during Thursday’s Game 6 at Oracle Arena.
There’s no Durant from now on, because a desire to return and compete and help his team didn’t turn out well.
“It’s devastating,” Leonard said Monday after Game 5. “You work so hard to get to this point, you know, these are the last games. You see he tried to come out and push himself, but obviously he tried to do a move and I feel bad for him. I’ve been in that situation before. I hope he has a speedy recovery and just gets healthy and hope that he’s going to be OK mentally, just throughout the whole rehab process.”