It’s devastating watching an athlete getting injured, but there can be a lot of second-guessing, especially when it involves a superstar. Like most of us watching Game 5 of the NBA Finals, I was mortified to see Kevin Durant drop to the floor in the second quarter with an injury after playing truly inspiring basketball up to that point.
I assumed he had once again injured his recently rehabbed calf muscle, but the harsh reality that came in the wee hours of the next morning revealed he has a torn Achilles and will in all likelihood miss the entire 2019-2020 season, which is beyond unfortunate and clearly tragic for this truly remarkable player. Yes, it simply stinks.
As expected by this old scribe and resident NBA junkie, it didn’t take long for various experts, beat writers, television personalities, former players and various internet bloggers to throw the entire Golden State front office and medical staff under the bus, and proclaim that Durant should’ve never played, as he was “probably” still injured and was only playing because the Warriors were facing elimination. That sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth, and while many of the aforementioned detractors either don’t understand or are simply irresponsible in terms of their sad commentary, the reason Kevin Durant played in Game 5 is because he, and no one else, decided he was ready to compete again after a month away from the game.
Like most elite players, Durant has his own highly credentialed doctor and the benefit of the team doctor, who is more than qualified as well. He received world-class rehabilitative care for his injured calf, and was monitored around the clock the entire time of his recovery. That’s how it works when you are one of the greatest players in the game, and there is no variation from the formula. All the medical providers involved gave him the green light to come back, and Durant alone, as it should be, had the final say in terms of how he felt and when he would return. To imply any differently is beyond disrespectful to both the player and the talented (and certified) clinicians who assisted him in the month-long process of rehabbing the injury. He will continue to receive the best medical care on the planet, and will more than likely recover fully from this severe injury and once again wreak havoc on the opposition as he routinely does.
The bigger question is why would anyone be foolish enough to think this highly intelligent man would cut corners and place himself at risk if he didn’t feel as if he was ready to return to the court? Everyone on the planet knows he can either opt out of his current deal and become a free agent, or he can exercise a player option for 31.5 million guaranteed dollars right away and return to the Warriors next season. While conventional wisdom lends to Durant now exercising that option, there are still teams out there who will happily roll the dice and sign him to a mega deal and allow him to use the entire upcoming season to rehab and recover in time for the 2020-2021 campaign.
Again, why would he risk his future and play last night if he didn’t feel he was totally healed and ready to go? He wouldn’t and he didn’t. No one knows his body better than he does, and he obviously felt he was 100% healthy and able to play.
Anyone who feels that wasn’t the case is simply foolish, as prime-time players do not expose themselves to any increased chance of any injury, be it a previously compromised calf, or a totally unrelated Achilles rupture. So have it all you armchair doctors and trainers and disregard the expert medical opinions the man had at his disposal. You’re beyond incorrect and completely out of line. The decision to play was Durant’s, and his only, and he opted to rejoin the fray. To steal a phrase from Walter Cronkite, “And that’s the way it is.” Injuries are an inherent risk of professional sports, and what tragically occurred in the second quarter of Game 5 was not exacerbated by a previous calf injury. If Kevin Durant can live with that, surely you should too.
Danny Bridges, who will certainly miss watching the great Kevin Durant next season, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.