Kevin Durant’s lower leg injury suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Toronto is indeed an Achilles injury, Warriors general manager Bob Myers told media on Monday after Golden State’s elimination game win.
“It’s an Achilles injury. I don’t know the extent of it,” said Myers, clearly shaken. “He’ll have a MRI tomorrow. Prior to coming back he went through four weeks with a medical team, and it was thorough and it was experts and multiple MRIs and multiple doctors, and we felt good about the process.”
Durant had strained his right calf in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets 32 days ago, and went through a comprehensive, collaborative process to return. The injury almost certainly means Durant — who will have an MRI on Tuesday — is done for the year. Achilles injuries take roughly 12 months to rehab, meaning the entire NBA offseason — set to center around Durant and Kyrie Irving — could completely change.
With 9:46 remaining in the second quarter, with Serge Ibaka defending him, Durant tried a jab step with his right leg, and quickly went down to the floor, clutching his right ankle — the same one that he injured when he landed from a 16-foot jumper in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Rockets.
Durant was helped back to the locker room by both Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, with Myers trailing behind. It was reported that the atmosphere in the room was one of raw emotion. On his Instagram account, Durant said, “I’m hurting deep in the soul right now I can’t lie but seeing my brothers get this win was like taking a shot of tequila, i got a new life lol. #dubs.”
“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
“And I’m not here to — he’s one of the most misunderstood people. He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person, it’s not fair. I’m lucky to know him. I don’t know — 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.”
Durant had endured scrutiny over the last month, questions about his motivation with the possibility that he didn’t want to play, to protect his ability to opt out of his contract and enter the free agent market, heading possibly to New York or Los Angeles. Toronto fans — who briefly cheered Durant’s exit before being admonished by their own team — were chanting “New York Knicks!” at Durant as he scored 11 points in 12 minutes.
Head coach Steve Kerr said repeatedly that Golden State held Durant back, wanting to make sure the leg was sound before he began playing.
“Sports is, it’s people, sports is people,” Myers said. “I know Kevin takes a lot of hits sometimes, but he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t. Basketball has gotten him through his life. So it means, I don’t know that we can all understand how much it means to him. He just wants to play basketball with his teammates and compete.”
Myers said that the calf injury Durant suffered previously against Houston was purely a calf injury, and not actually an Achilles, but Durant did say after the first injury that he thought it may be an Achilles the moment it happened, because it felt like he’d heard: like someone kicked him.
DeMarcus Cousins — who came on with nine points in his first five minutes after Durant went down — spent 12 months recovering from his own Achilles rupture. That tear occurred on Jan. 26, 2018, and he did not return until the end of January this year for Golden State. He signed with the Warriors over the summer for the mid-level exception of $4.7 million, because no team would take a flier on him, knowing they’d be paying for half a season.
There may now be fewer teams willing to offer Durant a max slot for a year of him sitting on the bench, if the injury is that severe, but the fact remains that as one of the greatest scorers of his generation, Durant may be more coveted than Cousins, a four-time All-Star with some on-court behavior issues in his immediate past.
Durant, as he has in other cities, has set down roots in the Bay Area, building youth courts bearing his name in Golden State’s future home of San Francisco.