After missing a month of action due to a right calf injury, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant returned to the court in Game 5 of the NBA Finals with his team trailing the Toronto Raptors 3-1.
He started off looking like the future Hall of Famer that he is by scoring 11 points in the first quarter as the Warriors jumped out to an early lead.
But just two minutes into the second quarter, Durant made a move that further injured his right leg. He left the game and later was diagnosed with an Achilles injury.
The question of whether the two-time Finals MVP should have played was a hot topic leading up to the game, and assigning blame for his injury became an even bigger topic afterward.
Many pointed at the Warriors for rushing Durant back to the court in a do-or-die situation, and Charles Barkley is in that contingent.
“You’ve been asking these guys all morning if there’s somebody to blame,” Barkley said Monday on ESPN’s “Get Up!” “Yes, there is somebody to blame! The Golden State Warriors, for putting KD out there. Listen, that was not right.”
Before Durant’s return, some were questioning his heart and toughness for sitting out for so long, while others suggested the Warriors might be better without him as they swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. That may have played a role in his returning too soon, Barkley said.
“If you go back and look at the last two weeks — the article comes out, KD’s worst nightmare that the Warriors are winning without him,” he said. “Then you come out, you read the articles, the Warriors are really unhappy that KD won’t risk his Achilles, they’re frustrated with KD. Now this man has to be feeling some type of way.
“So I blame the Warriors for KD getting hurt, and I don’t care what they say about it. They shouldn’t have put that man out there. You know how I know it? Because he blew out his Achilles.”
Barkley said it was unfair to put Durant on the court in such a high-pressure situation after a long layoff.
“To put a guy who hasn’t played basketball in over a month into Game 5 of the Finals, and had some type of move-around the day before, I don’t think that’s fair to that man,” he said. “And you saw the result.”
While Barkley blamed the Warriors, their head of basketball operations and general manager, Bob Myers, was pointing the finger at himself.
In a tearful news conference after the game, Myers said that if you are looking to assign blame to any one person, it’s him.
“He was cleared to play tonight. That was a collaborative decision,” Myers said. “I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand in this world if you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.”
Bob Myers is visibly upset as he announces Kevin Durant has an Achilles injury pic.twitter.com/DUM8V8awts
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 11, 2019
It’s hard to not think that Durant’s previous calf injury led to his Achilles injury, and if the tendon is torn, that will mean a lengthy rehab.
Myers’ tears likely are due not just the fact that he signed off on Durant playing and then getting hurt, but also because he may have affected the rest of Durant’s career.
A torn Achilles is one of the hardest injuries to return from, especially for an older athlete — Durant is 30.
Also, as he’s an impending free agent, the entire NBA landscape may have changed with the many teams that would have been vying for his services unsure about his future.
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