Kevin Durant didn't want to bug anybody. He just wanted to keep to himself, and appreciate the outpouring of support he'd already received.
Durant had never experienced an Achilles injury before — not a tweak, not a strain, nothing. So he had no point of reference after rupturing his Achilles as a member of the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.
"It was definitely new," he told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday. "Learning how to walk again — well, not walking and getting assistance in everything you do for the first three or four months — was tough."
Durant had his fair share of injuries: After winning MVP in 2014, Durant was limited to just 27 games the following season due to a fracture in his right foot that needed surgery. He later underwent a second surgery on that foot.
Neither surgery was comparable to his Achilles rehab.
"I have been through surgeries and injury before, but the longest recovery was three months," he said. "The first phase of the Achilles was three months. You can't walk around, you have to use a scooter."
For Durant, who is finally set to take the court for the first time as a member — and leader — of the Nets, it's been a painstakingly slow process back to the court, realized only by reaching milestones.
The first was learning to walk again. Next was learning how to run. Then he had to learn to jump, and get used to his body moving at high speed once again.
"That is underestimated. People don't realize that. And Achilles ligament is one of the strongest ligaments in your body," he said. "But after the pop, you have to build that up and that takes a while."
Durant has spent a long time building his right leg back up. He last played an NBA game about a year and a half ago. It was always understood he would sit out his entire first season in Brooklyn to focus on fully rehabbing his leg. He also skipped the NBA's resumption of the regular season in the Orlando bubble, along with several of his teammates, opting to continue to play it safe and focus on rehab rather than rush back for a delayed season during a pandemic with no clear path to a championship.
By the time the Lakers were crowned champions, Durant was back into high gear. He and his co-star Kyrie Irving have been working out on a daily basis.
"The consistency — we did four or five times a week," Durant said. "We did normal work, but it was good to finally get back out there and start playing up and down again."
Everyone who has seen him workout has raved. New Nets Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown each worked out with Durant and Kyrie Irving in California during the offseason. Irving also missed the majority of the season after a right shoulder impingement limited him to just 20 games in Year 1 with the Nets.
"They looked great. KD looks great. Kyrie looks great. I'm not them though so I don't know where they're at or what more is left, if they're there all the way (recovered from injury)," Shamet said recently. "But from the outside looking in, they look really good."
"They both are in great states of health so to speak," Nets coach Steve Nash added. "They're healthy, in shape and look great. So that's obviously the best scenario for us after a long layoff for both of them."
Durant, of course, is a former Most Valuable Player, one of the most unguardable players in NBA history when healthy, and he says he's healthy. His rookie season is the only time he's ever averaged less than 25 points per game. He has one season under his belt averaging at least 50% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from 3 and 90% shooting from the foul line. His career numbers miss that efficiency by a few percentage points.
Durant says he's ready to go, that 14 years in the league will put wear and tear on the body over time, that even if he didn't have the Achilles injury, he wouldn't be 100% healthy.
"Every drill that I've done, I've worked as hard as I could," he said.
It's not about the percentage. It's about where he is in his rehab timeline. Durant is recovered — the man who once couldn't walk now runs, jumps and shoots once again.