Kevin Durant’s comeback from a calf injury ended in something worse.
Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers was openly emotional when he told media members after the game that the injury was to Durant’s right Achilles. He felt the team had done all it could to ensure the two-time Finals MVP’s safe return to action and offered himself as a target of criticism in light of the injury.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand this world,” Myers said. “If you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.”
Myers, however, staunchly defended Durant, who had not played since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals due to a calf injury suffered on the same leg.
“The people that questioned whether he wanted to get back to this team were wrong,” Myers emotionally declared. “He’s one of the most misunderstood people,” Meyers said. “He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person, it’s not fair. I’m lucky to know him. 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 left in the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a game Golden State went on to win against the Toronto Raptors 106-105. The Warriors All-Star forward was seen leaving the arena on crutches and in a walking boot. He will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
Durant got hurt on a dribble on the right wing, coming up lame on a crossover move and falling to the floor. He grabbed the back of his leg, appeared to grab below the calf and more toward the Achilles area, and needed help to limp to the bench area and more help to get back to the Warriors’ locker room. Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was on Durant’s left side as they made the long walk back to the room, and general manager Bob Myers and guard Stephen Curry were in the group immediately behind them.
He shouted an expletive as he left the floor, his frustration obvious.
Durant had been cleared by the Warriors’ medical staff after Game 4, and participated in both a practice session Sunday and a shootaround practice earlier Monday. The Warriors had said throughout his monthlong absence that they did not want him back on the floor until he was right, for fear of this exact scenario — Durant aggravating the injury and having no chance of returning this season.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said before the game that Durant had “responded well” to the practices.
“He’s going to play,” Kerr said.
And he was playing well, too.
Durant had 11 points in 12 minutes, making all three of his 3-point attempts. He started and played the first six minutes, then had the lower leg wrapped with a heating pad to keep it loose before he returned about three minutes later.
A number of NBA players reacted on Twitter quickly — both to the injury, and to the sound of some Toronto fans cheering when Durant got hurt.
“Why are they cheering for his injury? Come on man,” Philadelphia center Joel Embiid wrote.
Added Washington’s Bobby Portis: “Raptors fans can’t cheer for a player getting hurt. That’s lame.”
Many others just sent best wishes, including Miami’s Kelly Olynyk, Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Atlanta’s Trae Young.
The Warriors entered the night trailing the Raptors 3-1 in the title series — meaning their hopes of a third consecutive NBA championship were squarely on the brink. Durant had not played since straining a calf muscle in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston, and the team hoped his presence would be a boost.
“The skill, obviously, is undeniable and he’s a guy who can get a shot off anytime he wants,” Kerr said earlier Monday. “He’s been in similar situations with us where he’s had long layoffs. He’s Kevin Durant. If we have him out there, he’ll be a threat.”
For the 12 minutes he was out there, Durant — the NBA Finals MVP when the Warriors captured titles in 2017 and 2018 — indeed was a threat.
And then he limped off, leaving the Warriors to play without him once again.
“I’m hurting deep in the soul right now,” Durant wrote on Instagram after the game.
His season is over.
The Warriors’ season isn’t.
“We do it for Kevin,” Thompson said.