'It's not fair': Kevin Durant returns, injures Achilles with free agency on horizon
Toronto — Golden State forward Kevin Durant has an injured right Achilles, a massive blow for the perennial All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP who may be three weeks away from free agency and could also be facing a long rehabilitation process.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers was teary when he gave the news after Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night. An MRI will be performed Tuesday to determine the severity, but Durant's season is clearly over and his recovery will likely take several months if the Achilles is indeed torn.
"He's one of the most misunderstood people," Myers said. "He's a good teammate, he's a good person, it's not fair. I'm lucky to know him. I don't have all the information on what really the extent of what it all means until we get a MRI, but the people that worked with him and cleared him are good people, they're good people."
Myers said Durant's first injury of this postseason was a calf injury, as the Warriors have insisted throughout. Myers also said that he is willing to accept the blame for the decision to play Durant in Game 5.
"I don't believe there's anybody to blame, but I understand in this world and if you have to, you can blame me," Myers said. "I run our basketball operations department. And to tell you something about Kevin Durant, Kevin Durant loves to play basketball, and the people that questioned whether he wanted to get back to this team were wrong."
Durant got hurt on a dribble on the right wing, coming up lame on a crossover move and falling to the floor. He grabbed the back of his leg, appeared to grab below the calf and more toward the Achilles area, and needed help to limp to the bench area and more help to get back to the Warriors' locker room. Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was on Durant's left side as they made the long walk back to the room, with Myers and Stephen Curry in the group immediately behind them.
"It sucks. I feel so bad for him, his camp," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "He's going to come back stronger though. That's the kind of fighter he is and I'm going to miss him, man. It's not the same being out there without him."
Durant shouted an expletive as he left the floor, his frustration obvious. He was supposed to be one of the marquee free agents this summer. He may now end up exercising his $31.5 million option to stay with the Warriors, especially if he's going to be sidelined for an extended period.
"I'm hurting deep in the soul right now," Durant wrote on Instagram after the game.
His season is over.
The Warriors' season isn't.
"We do it for Kevin," Thompson said.
Durant had been cleared by the Warriors' medical staff after Game 4, and participated in both a practice session Sunday and a shootaround practice earlier Monday. The Warriors had said throughout his monthlong absence that they did not want him back on the floor until he was right, for fear of a scenario where Durant aggravated the injury and had no chance of returning this season.
Their nightmare came true. And if it really only was a calf injury initially, this was worse.
"It's a bizarre feeling that we all have right now," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "An incredible win and a horrible loss at the same time."
Durant had 11 points in 12 minutes, making all three of his 3-point attempts. He started and played the first six minutes, then had the lower leg wrapped with a heating pad to keep it loose before he returned about three minutes later.
"He gave us what he had," Curry said. "He went out there and sacrificed his body."
When the injury happened, a number of NBA players reacted on Twitter quickly — both to the injury, and to the sound of some Toronto fans cheering when Durant got hurt.
"Why are they cheering for his injury? Come on man," Philadelphia center Joel Embiid wrote.
Added Washington's Bobby Portis: "Raptors fans can't cheer for a player getting hurt. That's lame."
Many others just sent best wishes, including Miami's Kelly Olynyk, Cleveland's Kevin Love and Atlanta's Trae Young. And some Raptors players, including Kyle Lowry, urged those fans who were cheering the sight of Durant limping to stop.
"I don't think the fans knew the significance of the injury," Lowry said.
The Warriors entered the night trailing the Raptors 3-1 in the title series — meaning their hopes of a third consecutive NBA championship remain on the brink now. Durant had not played since straining a calf muscle in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston, and the team hoped his presence would be a boost.
"The skill, obviously, is undeniable and he's a guy who can get a shot off anytime he wants," Kerr said earlier Monday. "He's been in similar situations with us where he's had long layoffs. He's Kevin Durant. If we have him out there, he'll be a threat."
He won't be out there again this season.
"I just feel so bad for him," Curry said. "Nobody should have to go through something like that."