OAKLAND — While his Warriors teammates were at Oracle Arena for one last practice, hoping to keep their season alive Thursday when they host the Raptors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant was posting his own status update on his Instagram account --starting the next chapter in his career.
Durant announced he had ruptured his Achilles in Monday’s Game 5 and underwent surgery to repair it, starting him on the road to recovery, although where he will appear next remains a mystery.
“What’s good everybody I wanted to update you all: I did rupture my Achilles,” Durant posted with a picture of him in a hospital bed. “Surgery was today and it was a success, EASY MONEY.
“My road back starts now! I got my family and my loved ones by my side and we truly appreciate all the messages and support people have sent our way. Like I said Monday, I'm hurting deeply, but I'm OK. 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 threepeat.
“It's just the way things go in this game and I'm proud that I gave it all I physically could, and I'm proud my brothers got the W. It's going to be a journey but I'm built for this. I’m a hooper.
"I know my brothers can get this Game 6, and I will be cheering with dub nation while they do it.”
The surgery, performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, likely will mean Durant will miss the entire 2019-20 season. He missed 10 consecutive games after suffering what the team called a strained calf in the Western Conference semifinals before returning Monday. He seemed to be back in form, scoring 11 points before suffering the injury two minutes into the second quarter.
While the Warriors were trying to focus on staving off elimination, trailing three games to two in the best-of-seven series, it was hard not to focus on Durant and the second-guessing over whether he was pushed back into the lineup too soon. The injury had Warriors general manager Bob Myers in tears after Monday’s game. Coach Steve Kerr defended the decision to allow him to play, saying there was no indication this could happen.
“Now, would we go back and do it over again? Damn right,” Kerr said. “But that's easy to say after the results. When we gathered all the information, our feeling was the worst thing that could happen would be a re-injure of the calf. That was the advice and the information that we had. At that point, once Kevin was cleared to play, he was comfortable with that, we were comfortable with that. So the Achilles came as a complete shock. I don't know what else to add to that, other than had we known that this was a possibility, that this was even in the realm of possibility, there's no way we ever would have allowed Kevin to come back.
"So it's devastating, mostly for Kevin, obviously. But I feel horribly for [Warriors director of sports science] Rick Celebrini as well, who is one of the best people I've ever been around and one of the smartest, brightest minds that I've ever been around. He's devastated. Bob, the team, we all are. But we made the decision collaboratively with all the information that we had and we thought it was the right one.”
The Warriors have resisted, just as Durant has, looking beyond this season and this series. But Durant is a free agent at season’s end, able to either opt in to a $31.2 million player option for next season or put himself on the free-agent market with the knowledge that he will be out of action for the first year of any deal. The Warriors can offer him a super max contract of five years and $221 million, far more than any other team. The Knicks, who are expected to still be interested despite the injury, can put a four-year, $160 million deal on the table.
But until Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, speak out on it, no one can be sure of how this injury has affected his decision. He left money on the table in his previous contracts with the Warriors, allowing them to keep the roster stacked around him. Durant's mother, Wanda, appeared on Good Morning America Wednesday and questioned the Warriors' decision to put him on the floor.
“Everybody has great 20/20 hindsight,” Steph Curry said. “There are 24 hours in a day and there are a lot of different takes you can have on the situation like that. In our cases, and as well as K and knowing him as a person and behind the scenes, we all want to play basketball. If we have an opportunity to play, we want to play. That's just how it is as competitors, and especially at this stage.
“I trust our medical staff and know Bob Myers has our best interests in terms of not just what we can do in this series, but long term in our overall health. You see how hard he took it, talking to you guys after the game. And that's really genuine and authentic. So you can waste time talking about the what ifs and this and that. Injuries are tough and they suck. They're a part of our game. But everybody putting their collective brains together to make the sound, smart decisions, you just live with that, because that's what's a part of our game.”