Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant injured his Achilles tendon in what a highly emotional general manager Bob Myers said was a different injury than the one that kept Durant out for a month before he returned as a starter Monday night.
Myers, while trying to contain his emotions as he sat down for a postgame news conference and then throughout the brief session, said the Warriors “felt good about the process” of clearing Durant to play in the 106-105 win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, which cut the Toronto Raptors’ series lead to 3-2.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame,” a teary-eyed Myers said. “But I understand this world, and if you have to, you can blame me. I run my basketball operations department.”
The degree to which Durant’s Achilles tendon was injured wasn’t specified. Myers said Durant will have an MRI on Tuesday to further evaluate it, and it is a different injury than the previous calf injury in the same leg.
“I’m hurting deep in the soul right now I can’t lie,” Durant wrote as part of an Instagram story post. “But seeing my brothers get this win was like taking a shot of tequila, I got new life lol.”
Myers said he didn’t know how the injury was different from Durant’s calf injury or what was different about it.
“Prior to coming back, he went through four weeks with our medical team,” Myers said. “And it was thorough, and it was experts and multiple MRIs and multiple doctors. And we felt good about the process. He was cleared to play tonight. That was a collaborative decision.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr tried said the win was bittersweet.
“I just told the team, I didn’t know what to say, because — on the one hand, I’m so proud of them — just the amazing heart and grit that they showed,” Kerr said. “And on the other, I’m just devastated for Kevin. And so it’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now. An incredible win, and a horrible loss at the same time.”
The play on which Durant was hurt happened with 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second quarter as he tried to drive by Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. Durant was just above the 3-point line on the right side, dribbled between his legs and went to drive with his left hand. Then his leg appeared to give, causing him to lose the ball.
Durant went down in pain after taking a couple of steps, grabbing the lower part of his calf on the sideline. Durant remained on the floor for a few moments as the Raptors came down the floor and made a basket. The Warriors called timeout as Rick Celebrini, the Warriors’ director of sports medicine and performance, raced to the floor to check on Durant.
Durant was then escorted straight to the locker room for further evaluation. As he made his way off the floor, both Warriors and Raptors players offered him some well wishes as the crowd inside sold-out Scotiabank Arena chanted, “KD! KD!” Warriors teammate Andre Iguodala was by Durant’s side with Celebrini as Durant was helped off the floor. Warriors guard Stephen Curry followed Durant into the locker room as well.
Durant walked by the media workroom inside Scotiabank Arena on crutches wearing a walking boot on his right leg on his way to exit the arena. He was accompanied by Celebrini and Myers.
“Let me tell you something about Kevin Durant,” Myers said. “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.”
The Warriors also lost Kevon Looney, who aggravated his shoulder injury.
Durant had not played since he injured his right calf on May 8 against the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. He went through Sunday’s light practice and Monday’s shootaround and was initially listed as a game-time decision. Then Kerr confirmed before the game that Durant would start.
Kerr said Durant would play in “short bursts,” but Durant left the game after playing 12 of the first 14 minutes of the game and scoring 11 points.
Kerr acknowledged after Monday’s shootaround that the uncertainty surrounding Durant’s status has been a tedious process for all involved.
“It’s been frustrating,” Kerr said. “We talked about it when the injury occurred. Pretty vague. A lot of gray area. One of the first things Rick [Celebrini] told me was, with calves, it could be a couple weeks, it could be a couple months. It’s not often you have injuries like that. Usually you kind of get that four-to-six-week thing or two-to-three weeks. So, calves, Achilles, muscular stuff is a little tougher to gauge than a joint. When you combine that with the scrutiny and the media coverage of the Finals, you’ve just been in the spotlight — he’s been in the spotlight — and it’s been tough.”
Kerr was asked if he had been told that Durant was also dealing with an Achilles injury. Kerr initially stated after Durant’s injury in May that he was assured it was not an Achilles injury that Durant was dealing with.
“No,” Kerr said. “I just threw out ‘Achilles.’ I didn’t mean Kevin’s Achilles. I mean, when you get non-joint issues, muscular issues are tougher to input in terms of how long a recovery will be. That’s my understanding.”