Kevin Durant’s close friend: ‘He’s going to come back 10 times better’
OAKLAND, Calif. — Warriors backup point guard Quinn Cook has known Kevin Durant since he was an unknown, skinny teenager in Seat Pleasant, Md., and he’s not going to doubt his friend now.
Amid widespread speculation Durant will never be the same player after rupturing his Achilles tendon Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Cook gave a much more encouraging outlook that is sure to warm the hearts of Knicks fans.
The Post reported Wednesday the Knicks aren’t backing off from Durant, a free agent on June 30. Achilles tendon tears are historically the most difficult injury to come back from for a big man and there’s a chance Durant could miss the entire 2019-20 season.
“He’s going to come back 10 times better,’’ Cook told The Post following Wednesday’s practice at Oracle Arena. “That’s what kind of a person he is. The only thing about his future, Kevin Durant is going to be back 10 times better than ever. There’s no question about that. He’s not going to be the same player. He’s going to be better.”
Cook is one of Durant’s closest friends. The two played together in the AAU system in Maryland. They live together and their lockers are side by side. Despite his sunny prognosis, Cook can’t believe Durant could be robbed of a full year of his prime.
“I’m sick to my stomach, hurt and heartbroken,’’ Cook said. “Your teammates and he’s put his heart and soul into the team, into his craft. He worked so hard, worked his ass off to get back. That lift he gave us — those 11 points [in the first quarter Monday], he gave us a boost we needed. I wish he was here with us. That’s our motivation right now.
“The focus is winning the championship for him, the city, the organization.”
Durant, who had been out with a calf strain suffered in the Western Conference semifinals, returned to supply 11 first-quarter points Monday, hitting two 3s, but he went down in a heap after making a move on Serge Ibaka early in the second period. He was helped by teammates off the court — perhaps not to return until the start of the 2020-21 season.
“Being off 33 days and to do that, in an elimination game on the road in the NBA Finals, to do what he did in those 12 minutes he played, that’s testament to who he is and the type of person,’’ Cook said. “He put his body on the line for us.”
The Warriors pulled out a 106-105 victory and Durant was there for his team at halftime despite already being on crutches and everyone knowing his sad fate.
“He gave us all the strength we needed at halftime, everything we needed to win the game in the second half,’’ said Cook, who played at Duke. “It was emotional. We didn’t need a speech. His presence was enough. Everyone gave him a hug, everyone loves him. His presence was all we needed. He gave us a spark in the second half.’’
An extra onus will be put on the Warriors’ bench to pull out the series as they trail 3-2 entering Game 6 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Cook is a 3-point specialist who has hit them at 35.7 percent (5 of 14) in the five games.
Durant won’t be on hand. His surgery took place Wednesday in New York at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Speculation some teammates were confused why Durant hadn’t returned yet from a calf strain eats at Cook. Those in the media questioning Durant’s unwillingness to return seem silly now.
“It was false,’’ Cook said. “Fans don’t know what’s going on in locker room and rehab, stuff they don’t see. We were behind him 110 percent, not rushing him. We all got excited when he started doing core work. He was trying to come back as soon as possible.’’
As it turned out, too soon.
Kevin Durant exits Scotiabank Arena on crutches after Achilles injury
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