THIS sucks. Never do we like to see injuries to popular NBA players, especially in the playoffs. When that popular player was looking like the best professional basketballer on the planet earlier this postseason though, you tend to take a bit more notice. Given the timing in the context of the season, the severity of the injury and who was in fact injured, you could make the case that Kevin Durant’s Achilles tear in Game 5 will become one of the most significant injuries in the history of the NBA. Now, we are left to pick up the pieces from Durant’s heartbreaking setback and watch as it impacts the future of the entire league.
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GAME 5 will forever be remembered in NBA folklore, but not due to the Warriors saving their season and keeping the quest for a title alive. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson delivered timely clutch baskets in the 106-105 win, but now there’s no potential KD return that can help them get over the line. Instead, one of the best scorers to grace the court will enter the summer on crutches as his pending future throws the league into flux.
THE widespread belief around the league was that Durant would opt out of his $31.5 million dollar player option when the season ended and take his talents elsewhere. The KD narrative has been weighing over the entire organisation for the majority of the year with the Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, Clippers and Nets all rumoured to be in the running for his services at some point in the last 12 months. However, given the fact that Durant won’t be on the court for most, if not all of the next season, his departure from the Warriors is no longer such a sure thing.
IF he is going to stay chances are Durant will still likely decline his player option and demand a hefty, long-term extension. The question is, will the Warriors give it to him? Golden State would salivate at the idea of keeping him in a Dub Nation uniform, but they have their own financial issues to work through this offseason. Klay Thompson is an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be after his own pay raise. I can’t see a scenario where the Warriors extend both players.
NOT only is Klay’s deal up, but the likes of Kevon Looney, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook will see their current contracts expire and are no certainty to return. I’m sure Golden State would love to have them, but they’ll be pursued by other teams who can offer them a lot more money. Their financial commitments to other players in their championship core like Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Iguodala and Stephen Curry has forced their hand and if they want to keep the majority of this group together, Durant may still be the odd man out.
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WE saw DeMarcus Cousins trying to navigate free agency last season following a season-ending injury and Kevin Durant could be in for a similar scenario 12 months later. Unlike Boogie, the majority of teams in the league (perhaps all of them) would offer Kevin Durant max money to join their club. However, a torn Achilles might give some second thoughts or doubts over committing such a large sum of money to a 30-year old player who is facing a long, gruelling rehab. The rumoured star pairing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving either at the Knicks or Nets may have to be put on hold if those teams end up adopting that train of thought.
Both NY teams along with the Los Angeles Clippers are expected to have two slots available for a player demanding a max salary and while there are plenty of stars this summer who may be worth a huge long-term deal, there’s only one Kevin Durant. Even if he does return to the court in 2019-20, there’s no guaranteeing Durant will be the same dominant scorer he once was. Achilles injuries historically don’t tend to be kind to NBA veterans. There’s a chance he can recapture the vibe though and with his game not centred around athleticism, I have high hopes that KD can still be the best player on a championship team.
DURANT was meant to be the saviour that arrived in New York to turn the Knicks franchise around or if you believe recent rumours, create chaos in NYC by instead siding with Brooklyn. He still may do one of those things and return to the same level of player, but these recent injury issues are heartbreaking for basketball fans. Durant’s desire and commitment has been somewhat unfair questioned during the Finals, but he proved to everyone by taking to the court in Game 5 where his intentions lie. Hopefully, this devastating injury helps fuel him to even greater heights, whether that’s in a Dubs uniform or not.
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