In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant returned to action after being sidelined for a month with a calf injury. The series was heavily in the Toronto Raptors’ favor, leading 3-1, but the Warriors’ hoped Durant could help lift them to a comeback much alike the Cavaliers’ comeback in the 2016 Finals.
Durant was strong early in the game, tallying 11 quick points on 3-for-5 from the field and 3-for-3 from downtown. He also got two rebounds in his short 12 minutes of play. It was early in the second quarter that the unthinkable happened.
On a non-contact play, similar to his calf injury, Durant went down in pain with the assumption he re-injured his right calf. However, as he was evaluated, it was determined that he injured his Achilles tendon.
For a comparison, a player who injured their Achilles and came back is Durant’s teammate, Demarcus Cousins, who tore his left Achilles in January of 2018. This was a contract year for “Boogie,” and he took the long path to recovery as he signed with the loaded Golden State Warriors for $5.37M on a one-year deal. Cousins was able to play again in January a year later and now is participating in his first NBA Finals. Even though things turned out great for him, Durant might not be so lucky.
Durant’s options are simple: Stay in Golden State for a year and then cash out on a major contract someplace else or sign this offseason with a team who’s willing to take a chance on him, despite suffering such a serious injury as he did. There are pros and cons to both sides, making the choice for both Durant and the teams wanting him difficult.
The easiest option in this scenario would be Durant re-signing with the Warriors for a one-year deal and going through rehabilitation on his own timeline. Golden State wouldn’t be in a rush to put him back on the court and will make the playoffs without him. So, a situation like Demarcus Cousins’ could come into fruition, as Durant could get another ring next year. Still, he’ll have to come to terms with the amount of money he’ll be paid. Golden State, understandably, isn’t going to throw a bunch of money at Durant to be injured for a year. If taking less money appeases Durant and he simply wants a nice road to recovery with a possible championship, then this is the logical choice. On the negative end, the tension between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant could continue to rise and eventually bubble over by next year’s Finals if their egos don’t stay in check.
The other option would be Kevin Durant jolting out of California for New York -- specifically for the New York Knicks. Durant has been playing on a big stage for the Warriors and he wouldn’t want to then play for New York’s JV team, the Brooklyn Nets. He’ll want to play on the biggest stage at Madison Square Garden—the Mecca of basketball—for the Knicks. They’d be happy to give a player like Durant the maximum, especially if he’s able to fully recover. The reason for having confidence he’ll recover is the fact that he isn’t heavily reliant on his athleticism. The issue is if the Knicks invest in Durant, they’ll have expectations of making the playoffs and might mistakenly hurry him back onto the court, risking further injury. The NYC spotlight is tremendous, but if the organization is patient with Durant, the payout could be worth it.
Kevin Durant will make a full recovery and be at the top of his game when the time comes. However, his future depends on what team he chooses to play for. If he’s to play it safe and sit on a Warriors’ roster, who are a shoe-in to make the playoffs, then he must take a pay cut. On the other hand, if he’s anxious and wants to sign a high-paying contract, then he’ll be packing his bags to play in New York City. Either way, he can’t be ridiculed for his decision, but if Durant is smart about it, we’ll be seeing him cheer on his Warriors brethren from the sideline next year in San Francisco.
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