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Rudy Gay to old friend Kevin Durant: ‘Don’t be scared’

The veteran forward can relate to KD’s pain after overcoming Achilles injury

“Don’t be scared.”

NBA veteran Rudy Gay sent Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant that message and other encouraging words via Instagram the day after Durant injured his right Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday.

“He hit me back and was appreciative,” Gay told The Undefeated over the phone from Milan. “We will have a conversation soon.”

Gay watched on television from Milan in the early hours of the morning when Durant suffered the injury. Gay said he knew immediately that Durant had suffered a torn Achilles tendon.

“You just know when you see it. It’s just like a Fireball shot running through your body,” Gay said.

Gay can relate to Durant’s pain, as he suffered a full tear of his left Achilles tendon on Jan. 18, 2017, while playing for the Sacramento Kings. The 6-foot-8 forward, who would be a free agent that summer, had surgery five days later with hopes of returning to action in six months. The San Antonio Spurs showed confidence in Gay by signing him to a two-year, $17 million deal on July 6, 2017.

San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (center) drives the lane for a basket between Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (left) and forward Mason Plumlee (right) in the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball playoff series April 16 in Denver.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Gay returned to NBA action nearly nine months after surgery, scoring 14 points in his season debut with the Spurs on Oct. 18, 2017. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds primarily off the bench in 57 regular-season games during the 2017-18 season. (Gay missed two games with a sore right heel early that season and 23 games with right heel bursitis later in the season.)

“I was able to be back working out in six months. Was I myself initially? No,” Gay said. “It took till the playoffs of last year to feel back. Returning in six months was unheard of at that time. …

“After surgery, I was out of a cast in three weeks. I was able to play six months after surgery. But the Spurs scaled me back.”

Gay opted out of the final year of his deal in 2018, then re-signed with the Spurs on a one-year, $10 million contract on July 11, 2018. The 32-year-old appeared to be completely recovered from the Achilles injury this past season, averaging 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game for San Antonio primarily as a starter in 68 games. Gay scored 19 and 21 points, respectively, in Games 6 and 7 in the Spurs’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets.

So what does Gay think will be the key for KD in his return?

“The biggest thing is finding your rhythm and knowing your body,” said Gay, who will be a free agent again this summer. “As long as you can continue to heal and get your rhythm back, the only thing that will be new is figuring out your body.”

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors reacts after suffering an injury during the second quarter of Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on June 10.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Both Durant and Gay are from the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area and have known each other since high school. Gay says he will be available to help his friend in his road to recovery, and he’s confident the two-time NBA Finals MVP will return as an elite player.

“People forget that he is 7 feet tall and shoots the way he does,” Gay said. “Even if he can’t be completely himself initially, he still will be better than most players. That’s the worst-case [scenario]. I know he will be fine.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.