Here’s a Kevin Durant status blurb before Game 4 of the NBA Finals, in which he did not play.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said early in the series that he did not want to play Durant without first going through a full practice. Kerr told reporters on Wednesday that he thought Durant would scrimmage on Thursday [June 5], a meaningful step in returning to action. Yet Warriors trainers did not feel Durant should scrimmage. Kerr said Durant had not had a setback.
The Golden State Warriors announced before Game 5 [June 10] of the NBA Finals that Kevin Durant was cleared to play, with “no possibility of injuring his right Achilles tendon”– their only concern was a “tweak” of his injured calf (gastronemius) muscle. This is what the ABC announcers relayed to their viewers just before tip-off.
Well, the Warriors won 106-105 to extend the series another game, but Kevin Durant tore his Achilles tendon during the game. This was nothing less than a medically irresponsible decision. No one in the organization has seriously stepped up to take the blame they deserve for this potentially career-ending injury to one of the game’s greatest stars.
As in any other industry under capitalism, it’s only defeating the competition that matters in business. The Golden State Warriors are a successful pro basketball franchise, winning three NBA titles in the last four seasons. Their overwhelming desire to win another one was the primary factor in pushing Kevin Durant back onto the court, when he clearly wasn’t ready to play.
Anyone watching the 1st quarter of Game 5 could see that Kevin Durant was not moving well from the start, even when he made his first three 3-point attempts. The first time he tried to make a real basketball move, his Achilles tendon ruptured, and he fell to the floor in pain. Evidentially, there were at least a few trainers from the Warriors who didn’t want Durant to play, but they were overruled by management.
Golden State general manager Bob Myers said after Monday’s game, “It’s an Achilles injury. I don’t know the extent of it. He’ll have an MRI tomorrow . Prior to coming back, he went through four weeks with a medical team, and it was thorough, and it was experts and multiple MRI’s and multiple doctors, and we felt good about the process. He was cleared to play tonight. That was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame.
“If you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department. And to tell you something about Kevin Durant: Kevin Durant loves to play basketball, and the people that questioned whether he wanted to get back to this team were wrong.
“He’s one of the most misunderstood people. He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person. It’s not fair. I’m lucky to know him. I don’t know — I don’t have all the information on what really the extent of what it all means until we get an MRI, but the people that worked with him and cleared him are good people. They’re good people.”
This is shameful deflection, apologetics & self-pity from a GM, meant to misdirect responsibility for coercing a star player into playing when he shouldn’t have been cleared medically. Doctors need to have final say when it comes to clearing an athlete, with no organizational or corporate interference. Otherwise this avoidable tragedy will continue to play out in professional sports.
As Charles Barkley points out in the video above, players always want to play. That’s their nature. It’s the responsibility of management (with all its resources) to protect its players, for the good of the game.
If this means sacrificing the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors — so be it. Players are assets in a business sense, to be exploited for maximum advantage in competition. But they are also human beings with physical limitations, and this should always be a primary consideration. It wasn’t here, and the culprits are all-too-obvious.
Everything Charles Barkley says about the Golden State Warriors being negligent is correct. How do we know they were negligent? Because Kevin Durant immediately got hurt again. That doesn’t happen to an elite athlete who is healthy & rehabilitated.
The talk around the league now centers around how this will affect the rest of the NBA Finals, and even more importantly– free agency this summer. Kevin Durant was set to be the top prize this off-season, along with Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors.
Now Durant will not play in 2019-20, so he’ll exercise his $31.5M option to stay with Golden State. He’s fortunate in that sense that he has that option. The question remains: what will Kevin Durant be like if/when he returns? Achilles tears are a difficult rehabilitation, and often the athlete is never the same again. All this could have been avoided, if the Warriors had taken a human & medical interest in Kevin Durant, instead of rushing the basketball star back onto the court in a desperate attempt to win another NBA title.
Winners don’t make short-sighted decisions like the Warriors made before Game 5. Blame GM Bob Myers first & foremost, then head coach Steve Kerr, and then every member of management & their medical staff that pushed Kevin Durant into playing, or underplayed the injury risk.
Team owner(s) sign the paychecks and can be a bullying force too. Was that the case here? That’s a lot of investigating & accountability. I don’t expect much of this to be done by the NBA. So how can blame be properly assigned? That’s why I (and many others) don’t watch much of this game anymore.
As far as the media goes, ESPN has major broadcast deals with the NFL (first & foremost), college football second, and then the NBA. Therefore ESPN, the “world sports leader” will report no dirt that hurts on this matter. Honest in-house reporting would cut across ESPN corporate interests. Only independent journalists will uncover the names & facts here, and I leave it to them to do it– if they care.
The goal in management under our current economic set-up is to always avoid blame, and transfer the responsibility for mistakes to others in a lesser position of power. Therefore there will (most likely) be no long-term consequences for anyone, except Durant. No one will get fired or punished for negligence & incompetence, and all NBA franchises retain the right to coerce their players into getting hurt– for the good of the team.
The most relevant comparable example of this nefarious manipulation is the Curt Schilling “bloody sock” game (photo above) in the 2004 ALCS against the NY Yankees. The Boston Red Sox needed Schilling to pitch, despite a torn Achilles tendon, otherwise they would be eliminated. Schilling pitched gruesomely & brilliantly, as they won. He pitched one more game in the World Series, as the Red Sox ended “The Curse.”
These heroics forever glorified the athlete who is willing to do anything to help his team win. What gets left behind is that Curt Schilling was never the same pitcher again, because of this injury abuse. Look at the numbers for proof. Schilling probably doesn’t regret any of this, because that’s the competitor he is, helping his team win when they needed him most.
For those of us who say that sports are about much more than winning, the precedent he set with his “heroics” was a bad one. No athlete should have to risk their health & career for his or her team. The fans who cheer during the game, quickly forget about the players when it’s over. Very few in their lust for victory question the heroic approach. It’s the injured athletes who have to live with the lifetime consequences of being treated as disposable commodities. Where’s the glory in that?
Thur 13 Jun 2019 ~9:30 AM EDT
Final wrap-up: Kevin Durant had surgery on Wednesday, June 12 for his ruptured Achilles tendon. ESPN & the NBA have gone into overdrive trying to spin this foolish catastrophe caused by misguided ambition for basketball glory into a glorifying moment of team fandom.
It’s clear that even Durant himself has been made to “play ball,” and quietly accept his fate. That’s what his $31.5M option buys for the Golden State Warriors, since Durant can’t play anymore. He’s a team player, and who can refuse THAT money? I don’t blame him.
The official narrative is that everyone in the Warriors organization was “on the same page” with allowing Kevin Durant to play hurt, which (by that logic) makes their disastrous & careless decision okay. As long as they were all wrong together, the main thing is team unity!
This is ignorant group-think & media apologetics after-the-fact. Expect nothing else from ESPN, ABC & the NBA. All this garbage must be rejected with contempt by any rational & thinking sports fan, otherwise these senseless injuries, driven by corporate greed, will continue.
In the bigger picture, if this can happen to one of the NBA’s greatest stars, then it’s clear we all have become disposable to our paymasters. If a player with Durant’s stature & clout can’t resist the corporate pressure to conform, and sacrifice his right Achilles tendon for a lost cause, then what chance does an ordinary worker have in rejecting unreasonable demands from their bosses?
Fri 14 Jun 2019 12:57 AM EDT
Game 6 final score: Raptors 114 Warriors 110. Raptors win the series 4-2 and are the 2019 NBA Champions. The refs did everything they could to bring us a Game 7, but the Warriors sustained another injury to a key player in Klay Thompson, and the Raptors are just a better team at this point.
When this series was set to begin, the Warriors were already being christened a NBA dynasty, about to win their 4th title in 5 seasons. Yes, they had lost Kevin Durant to a severe calf strain already, but they still managed to handle their biggest rival, the Houston Rockets before sweeping the Portland Trailblazers in the conference finals. All this without their best player, Kevin Durant.
The path that lay ahead seemed clear: win the NBA Finals, then resign Durant and win a few more titles. Two weeks later, everything is in ruins for the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant is now gone from basketball, pending a long & painful rehabilitation. Just getting back on the court again will be an accomplishment for him. In my legal opinion, the Golden State Warriors & NBA owe him hundreds of millions of dollars in lost wages.
Klay Thompson was seen leaving Oracle Arena on crutches, from a knee injury he sustained late in the game. All that’s left is Steph Curry who is still great, but not enough to win it all. This franchise went from league darling, to crashing itself into a mountain during this fateful NBA Finals.
I’ve never witnessed anything like this in sports before. If the Warriors had not played Kevin Durant in Game 5, they would have lost this series 4-1. Now that it’s over, the question forever remains: Was the sacrifice of Kevin Durant’s career worth it?