Jun 13, 2019
Nick FriedellESPN Staff Writer
- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors star forward Kevin Durant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during Monday’s victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and underwent surgery Wednesday in New York City.
“What’s good everybody I wanted to update you all: I did rupture my Achilles. Surgery was today and it was a success,” Durant wrote in an Instagram post, which accompanied a picture of him in a hospital.
The Warriors said the surgery was done at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley. Durant is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season.
Durant injured his right Achilles in the second quarter of Game 5. He had not played since injuring his right calf May 8 against the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Wednesday’s practice that Durant’s Achilles tear came as a “complete shock” to the organization.
“I completely understand the world we live in,” Kerr said. “As [Warriors general manager] Bob [Myers] mentioned the other night, there’s going to be blame. There’s going to be finger-pointing, and we understand that. And we accept that. This is kind of what you sign up for when you get into coaching, general management in the NBA. There’s all kinds of coverage, judgment, criticism, and it’s all part of it, so we accept that. The main thing is our concern for Kevin and these last couple of days just checking on him. Obviously, everybody feels horrible for what happened.
“As Bob mentioned the other night, this last month was a cumulative, collaborative effort in his rehabilitation. And that collaboration included Kevin and his business partner Rich Kleiman, our medical staff, his own outside opinion, second opinion, doctor outside of our organization. Kevin checked all the boxes, and he was cleared to play by everybody involved.”
Kerr made it clear that the organization did not feel it was putting Durant, 30, at risk for further injury, despite the fact he hadn’t played in over a month and was still recovering from a strained calf on the same leg.
“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 reinjury 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.”
Warriors guard Stephen Curry defended Myers and the organization’s decision to clear Durant for Game 5. Durant, the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP, holds a $31.5 million player option for 2019-20.
“I trust our medical staff and know Bob Myers has our best interests,” Curry said. “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, and they’re going to continue to be a part of our game. But everybody putting their collective brains together to make the sound, smart decisions, you kind of just live with that, because that’s what’s a part of our game.”
Kerr and several players acknowledged the shock and sadness that still exists within the organization following Durant’s injury. The coach specifically mentioned Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance.
“So it’s devastating, mostly for Kevin, obviously,” Kerr said. “But I feel horribly for 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.”
Warriors swingman Klay Thompson said it was “stupid” for fans to question the fact that Durant wanted to be back on the floor before his injury.
“That’s just the nature of the game these days,” Thompson said Wednesday. “It happens to the greatest athletes to ever play. Every athlete at his level has gone through it, whether it’s been Kevin, Muhammad Ali, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, baseball players, Wayne Gretzky. They have all been questioned, especially in this day and age with the media and the 24-hour news cycle. There’s going to be talking heads talking about his game and whatnot. That just comes with the territory.
“But we know who he is. We have won championships with him. I’ve played in international games with him. I’ve seen him every day in the gym. You don’t need to question someone’s heart or desire to play when you see their daily work and their résumé. This man has won every accolade there is. So for these people to say that, it’s really just irresponsible and stupid, because this man has been a basketball prodigy since he was 15, and his skill level is not attained unless you put the work in.”
As the Warriors, trailing 3-2 in the Finals, prepare for Thursday’s Game 6 — which also marks their final game at Oracle Arena before moving to San Francisco next season — they do so with the belief that Golden State fans will show even more support than usual in the wake of Durant’s injury.
“I expect us obviously to come out and play as hard as we can,” Thompson said. “We’re not even thinking about the future. We’re just thinking about enjoying this last show at Oracle we’re about to give our fans. And I expect our fans to be the loudest they have ever been, especially in the name of Kevin and bringing his type of spirit he would bring to the fight and the competitiveness.
“I know our fans will do that because we deserve it, but more importantly, Kevin does for what he gave this team, this organization. There wouldn’t be banners if it wasn’t for his presence. So we expect our crowd to be loud for him.”