Kevin Durant made the right decision to play in Game 5
Kevin Durant was back for 12 minutes.
The Golden State Warriors small forward returned from a lower-calf injury for Game 5 of the NBA Finals with his team down 3-1 to Toronto in the series. He had been out since May 8 after he suffered the injury in the Western Conference Semifinals against Houston.
The Warriors were on the brink of elimination, and they needed their hobbled superstar back to flip the script. So, Durant, who was far from 100% healthy entering tip-off on Monday, stepped on the court in Toronto to attempt to extend the series.
Durant’s presence was the ultimate boost for Golden State. He sank a trio of three-pointers to contribute to his 11 points in the opening quarter-plus of the game.
Looking to drain another from behind the three-point arc, Durant pushed up against Raptors forward Serge Ibaka to gain space.
Right Achilles ruptured.
Durant was down, play was suspended and Toronto fans cheered Durant’s misfortune, much to the disgust of both Warriors and Raptors players.
As Durant sat on the edge of the hardwood, legs fully extended, he massaged the back of his right ankle as his teammates began to surround him.
Durant was helped up, handed over to team physicians and disappeared into the visitor’s tunnel with a look of shock and devastation on his face.
The shock Durant and the Warriors were feeling permeated through my computer screen as I watched Game 5. I felt it, too.
This shock left me with a few questions. Did Durant return from injury too soon? Did he feel the month-long pressure to play after analysts and fans questioned his dedication to Golden State? Why was he cleared to come back, and who specifically cleared him?
After all, Durant is a free agent this summer. He’s due for a massive payday, and NBA franchises like the Knicks and Nets are in line to offer him supermax contracts come June 30. Even if he opts back into a contract with the Warriors, he’ll be due $31.5 million.
Why should he care about one game with the rest of his career in front of him?
I’ll tell you why: Kevin Durant loves basketball and his team.
On Wednesday, Durant took to Instagram to bring the public into his world of recovery.
“What’s good everybody (sic) I wanted to update you all: I did rupture my Achilles. Surgery was today and it was a success,” he said. “Basketball is my biggest love and I wanted to be out there that night because that’s what I do. I wanted to help my teammates on our quest for the three-peat.”
Based off of Durant’s emotional statement, a few conclusions can be made regarding some of the questions I had.
Yes, Durant did return from injury too quickly. He wanted to help his teammates so badly that he put his own physical and financial health on the line. He was not healthy enough to play, but he went out there anyway. I believe he felt the pressure to return.
Outside of his own desire to come back, Durant also received clearance from his team doctors and general manager Bob Myers to return to the court.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand this world,” Myers said in a post-game press conference. “If you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.”
While the decision to throw Durant back out there was a mistake, I do support what he and the Warriors staff decided to do. Golden State’s season was on the line, and Durant wanted to be a part of the reason the Warriors won or lost a championship.
Sadly, Durant’s decision cost him, and he may miss all of next season because of it.
He still made the right call.
Follow Dylan O'Shea on Twitter @dylanoshea24. Contact him at [email protected].