Warriors forward Kevin Durant confirmed that the injury he suffered during Game 5 of the NBA Finals was indeed a ruptured Achilles tendon, and that he had surgery on Wednesday to repair it.
Durant had returned from a monthlong absence from a calf strain to rejoin the Warriors, who trail the Raptors 3-2 in the Finals. He didn’t exactly look fully healthy before suffering the injury on Monday night, but he scored 11 points in the first quarter before suffering the injury. It had been immediately assumed that Durant had a serious Achilles injury, and an MRI in New York confirmed it.
The MVP of the last two Finals wrote on Instagram, “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 three peat. Its 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.”
Curiously, less than half an hour before Durant announced that he had successful surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that there was no update on Durant — not what the diagnosis was, or that he was having surgery.
It does seem reasonable that Durant would have surgery immediately after a diagnosis; Achilles ruptures are extremely easy to test for. But the fact that the Warriors were so out of the loop with his medical situation tracks with what Adrian Wojnarowski reported this morning: Exercising his player option with Golden State is a “last resort” for Durant.
The full rupture means that Durant is almost certainly out for the entire 2019-20 season, which has major ramifications for Durant (obviously) and the rest of the NBA. Very few NBA players have ever returned to their prior form after major Achilles surgery, and even fewer have done it within a year. Someone, maybe even the Warriors, will sign Durant to a max contract this offseason, regardless of his availability for the 2019-20 season or prognosis after it.
The fact that Durant will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but is unlikely to play next season sets off a long chain of dominoes throughout the league. Without Durant on the floor for a year, suddenly it makes more sense for the teams interested in pairing Durant and Anthony Davis to let Davis hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2020 instead of trading for him now. And the return on Durant is much less of a guarantee than it was a week ago.
One domino you can bet will fall is the first-year Warriors training staff. Soft-tissue injuries are hard to diagnose with certitude, and if the Durant situation happened in a vacuum, it could be excusable. But Durant’s injury was just the most recent in a long line of bizarre misdiagnoses by the Warriors training staff this summer, including a dispute between player and team over Klay Thompson’s hamstring and wildly varying descriptions of a chest injury to Kevon Looney.