Before I begin, this is more of me making my amends with KD than anything else.
As you all know, Durant suffered a right calf strain during Game 5 of the second round against the Houston Rockets.
He had not played for over a month, but heading into Game 5 of the NBA Finals, with his team down 3 games to 1, Durant decided to play.
He started off the game phenomenally, looking like his normal self as he hit 2 early threes.
He finished the first quarter with 11 points, and the Warriors offense was clicking on all cylinders.
Then, during the second quarter, Durant brought the ball up the court, a switch occurred and former teammate Serge Ibaka began to cover him. Durant then went to his right, crossovered to his left and lost possession of the ball; that was the game for him.
It is being reported as an Achilles injury (likely a torn Achilles tendon, according to Ramona Shelborne), and the way he reached for his heel… I know I am not a doctor, I know it’s just speculation, but it looked exactly like what Kobe did in 2013.
Anyway, with this new injury (or re-aggravation of his old one), it is all but certain Durant is done this postseason, and maybe longer.
There has been some debate for a week or so about if Kevin Durant should have even returned to the NBA Finals.
It has been called a calf injury, but some all along thought it might be an Achilles injury. I say this because testing an injury like that, especially when you are not 100%, can have damaging repercussions, the likes of which we may have just saw in Game 5.
There was also the layer of the way he had been treated by his teammates. This goes back to his argument with Draymond Green earlier this season, reports his teammates did not believe he was trying to come back as aggressively as he should, and an overall feeling of being underappreciated.
The third point: money. Max Kellerman made this point earlier today, a theory about if KD hurt himself again, he could sacrifice next season, as well as the season after as he recovers. This would mean it would take until the age of 33 for KD to be himself again, possibly at the end of his peak. With this knowledge, would teams even pay him (assuming he actually were to opt-out)?
Keep in mind this was before Game 5 took place.
The other side was this: come back for your team, come back to compete for a title.
I will admit, I was on the latter side of this argument.
As Durant took his time to return, the significance of the injury seemed to grow. I thought he would have played much earlier in the Finals, but I was happy to see him back. I saw it as a player looking to give his team the best chance they had to win, put everything on the floor, similar to Zdeno Chara playing for the Bruins with his broken jaw. They are different injuries, but the feeling was similar in my opinion.
I respected it.
Now with Durant injured, probably very significantly, people will analyze this and ask if Durant made the right choice. At the end of the day, it was his call, and if he thought he was ready, he has the right to try and give it a go.
I found myself respecting KD a bunch for going out there at all, and it shows who he is as a competitor, a teammate, and a person. His career might be forever altered, but he wanted to give his team a boost, go out there and help them win, and I cannot deny how admirable that is, and we should all respect that.
This goes a bit further.
Durant has been picked a part ever since he decided to join the Warriors in 2016.
I am not going to sit here and act like I am on the other side of this, because I am not.
I wanted him to come to Boston, and if not here, maybe the Spurs to play with Kawhi, but I would have preferred he stayed in OKC; anywhere but Golden State.
As the years have gone by, people have said his decision became worth it, that he was in fact needed all along. I don’t agree with that entirely, but this postseason (prior to his injury against the Rockets), I began to understand the move a lot more.
Durant knew that he would not be judged by the amount of points he scored during his career, but rather, titles. He was always a great player, and he knew if he wanted to be considered in the class of the LeBrons of the world, he needed to win.
At the end of the day, the Thunder, as constructed, were never going to give him the best opportunity to win.
He chose a team that prioritized winning, and given the choices he had, and where he was at in his career, the way he knew he would be viewed, he did what was best for him. Even if I disagree, I respect him for making that choice, and more importantly, owning it.
As I began to see my view change, last night clinched it for me. We doubted KD’s will to compete for years, taking the easy way out, but we cannot do that anymore; I cannot do that anymore.
Durant’s team was down 3-1, and if he sat out last night, most would have probably understood. But like he did with signing with the Warriors, he made a choice many might not understand.
He put his body, his career, his future earning potential, he put it all on the line.
It could have been for nothing, the Warriors could have lost regardless, but Durant did not care. He did not want to see his team lose, and he felt if he could help them, he needed to, and he did.
It was a risk-filled sacrifice, and however you may feel about the choice he made, or the choices he has made, when his team was down, and he was hurt, he chose to go to war… and because of it, he very well might not play again until October 2020 when he’s 32, and might not be fully recovered until October 2021 when he’s 33.
I may disagree with how he got to this point, but I will never disagree with the choice to go to battle with your family.
Neither should anyone else.
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