Kevin Durant’s injury could have significant impact on Warriors, NBA Finals and free agency

first_img“We miss him, we just wish him a speedy recovery,” Klay Thompson said. “That’s our brother and it’s honestly, to be honest, it kind of – it’s very deflating. It’s hard to even celebrate this win.”The decision, which Myers called “collaborative” will be dissected to an uncomfortable degree. Already, pundits spent Tuesday morning wondering what the Warriors’ medical staff knew about Durant’s health and speculated on what compromises led to him playing after spending a month sidelined by a calf strain. Though Coach Steve Kerr initially expected him to play in “short bursts” pregame, Durant actually played nearly 12 of the 14 minutes of game time before he went down.It remains to be seen how Durant weighs culpability in the decision for him to play, but once trust frays between an NBA star and a team medical staff, those bonds are as difficult to repair as tendons. One need only look to the opposing sideline in the Finals for an example: Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with the San Antonio Spurs unspooled after his camp disagreed with the team over a mysterious quadriceps injury, leading to his trade to Toronto.But there’s plenty of variance to how Durant could respond to the challenge, and in another scenario, Golden State could actually be a haven. While rumors have swirled that Durant would leave the Bay Area for the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or Clippers, clearly the Warriors dynasty meant enough to him to risk his health in Game 5, playing through injury to try to give the franchise a chance to three-peat.If he faces a long recovery process and free agent suitors balk at paying him a max salary knowing he’ll likely spend the first year on the shelf, Durant still has a player option for next season. He could opt in for $31.5 million and a fourth season in Golden State if he senses that his payday is drying up – similar to teammate Demarcus Cousins’ predicament last year.But for all the uncertainty Durant must be feeling, it is felt elsewhere, too. He was to be arguably the crown jewel of a decorated 2019 free agent class, one which has led to franchises frantically clearing their books. Even as recently as this week, the Nets made news by trading the salary of Alan Crabbe to create space for a second max-contract slot, and rumors swirled that they had designs on playing Durant and fellow free agent Kyrie Irving together.Their Manhattan-based neighbors have been even more openly pining for Durant. The New York Daily News went as far as sensationalizing the injury around the Knicks’ free agency outlook: “KNICKS LOSE GAME 5”. Long-suffering franchises were hoping that landing Durant could make them instant contenders. Now, even if they are still willing to shell out for him, it’ll likely set back those ambitions at least one more season.It’s not just Durant’s suitors who are affected – the dynamic of free agency might change completely. More focus could shift toward Leonard, who could be the Finals MVP in a few days if Toronto closes out the series (though the Raptors might have a better case of retaining his services if they win). That also might stall the plans or shift the focus of free agents who might have been thinking of teaming with Durant, such as Irving.It might increase the desperation level for some teams to find a trade to acquire Anthony Davis, who the Pelicans have made clear can be had for a mix of established players, young talent and draft picks. An ESPN report Monday indicated that New Orleans was hoping to finish a deal before the June 20th draft if possible, and the Lakers were seen as a clubhouse leader. With Durant potentially off the table for some teams (and no longer a threat to others), will that embolden a previously unforeseen contender to make an offer for Davis? It’s something several NBA front offices might be mulling in the wake of the injury.The magnitude of how the league might respond almost minimizes the human struggle that Durant is about to enter. Depending on the severity of the injury, Durant might not play basketball for a calendar year. Achilles injuries also tend to hamper athletic ability, as former Laker Kobe Bryant can attest, and it’s unclear if the 30-year-old will ever be the player he was. In these playoffs, he was averaging a career-best 32.3 points while demonstrating scoring prowess from every level of the court. He was at the peak of his powers, making his stumble sting all the more.“I just feel so bad for him, to be honest,” Curry said. “Nobody should have to go through something like that, especially with this stage that we have.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe Achilles tendon draws its name from Greek epic poetry, referencing the fatal flaw of a mythic warrior whose downfall swung the course of a war between kingdoms. Durant’s injury, which could take more than a year to recover from depending on the severity, threatens to topple the defining dynasty of this era and will ripple out into the NBA’s free agent market in ways few can imagine.Myers’ own reaction reflected the gravity of the situation: a star in his prime injured with less than a month before he was expected to enter free agency. At one point, Myers wept.“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame,” he said. “But I understand in this world and if you have to, you can blame me.”There will be skeptical parsing over the Warriors’ decision in the months (and possibly years) to come, but also in the short term. Durant’s potentially devastating injury not only robs Golden State of one of its potent scorers and the winner of the last two Finals MVP awards, but it also casts a pall over their playoff run.If Durant had sat out, questions about his readiness and health would have remained; but the net effect of his injury has created an emotional hurdle for the franchise. After the game, most of Durant’s teammates were preoccupied with worrying about him.center_img Even the sudden exhale of relief – one of stayed execution – was not enough to pull Steph Curry completely from shock.The two-time NBA MVP shook his head seconds after the Golden State Warriors had staved off the Toronto Raptors 106-105, cutting their series deficit to one game and forcing a return trip to Oakland and the last game ever to be played at Oracle Arena. It was clear that those victories were already fading amid the more pressing tragedy that had unfolded earlier in the evening when Kevin Durant had crumpled to the ground in the second quarter.“I just feel bad for him,” he said in his walk-off interview with ABC, his eyes wandering. “I’ve got a lot of emotions right now.”It’s not an overstatement to suggest that Durant’s injury in Game 5 on Monday night might be one of the most consequential in NBA history. Warriors president Bob Myers made a rare appearance at the podium after the game to say the injury was to Durant’s right Achilles tendon, a notoriously difficult and tedious thread of tissue to rehabilitate. As of Tuesday afternoon, Durant was flying to New York for a medical evaluation, but no one anticipated hopeful news.last_img read more