What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt discuss reaction to Kevin Durant’s Achillies injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant will be back.
Probably not at the “best player in the world” level he’s at right now, but Durant will make up for the loss of athleticism that comes with what looks like an Achilles injury with skill, shooting and smarts.
He won’t go out like this. His competitiveness alone won’t allow him to do so.
The sight of Durant leaving Scotiabank Arena on crutches and in a walking boot after going down in the second quarter of Monday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals has everyone bickering in the world of hindsight 20/20.
He should’ve played? It’s the Finals. Other guys are hurt. Gut it out.
He shouldn’t have played? Durant’s in his prime. Had rest of his career to consider.
The Warriors should’ve played him? He was cleared to practice with the calf injury. Looked ready to go.
The Warriors shouldn’t have played him? He’d missed a month. No need to risk it.
What’s getting lost in all of this is the NBA is going to miss out on seeing the game’s best player attempt to lead the Warriors back from a 3-1 deficit and go mano a mano against Kawhi Leonard, the best player this postseason.
For all the heroics of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson late in Game 5, Durant gave Golden State the initial jolt it needed to build a nine-point lead in the first half.
He had 11 points in 12 minutes. The Raptors were primed to take down the defending champions before a raucous crowd ready to celebrate the franchise and country’s first NBA title.
Then Durant hit a 3. Then another. And another.
Uh oh. He’s back. The Warriors are back.
Durant stayed in front of Fred VanVleet before getting called for a foul, but had some words for the much shorter and quicker Toronto guard.
Oh yeah. Durant’s smiling. Talking trash.
That’s NBA Finals basketball right there.
So Durant was feeling more comfortable, which probably led to the him going between the legs in looking to get past Serge Ibaka for likely his patent pull-up jumper.
Then he felt something and went down.
Oh no. Durant’s down. Grabbing his Achilles.
They’ll probably win Game 6 in what will be the final game in Oracle Arena to force a Game 7, but it’s hard to see the Warriors winning a Game 7 in Toronto without Durant.
In a strange way, the Warriors coming up short could enhance Durant’s legacy because they will have only won one NBA title without him.
Durant will remain the biggest story in the Finals – and league. His injury will impact free agency not only for himself, but for those teams looking to add him and another star with max deals.
The player who would love to just play ball and not deal with all the attention he deems negative for the most part is in the center of a swirling storm of spirited conversation about what should or should’ve happened and what he should or shouldn’t have done.
As much as this injury sucks on multiple levels, Durant can actually use this time to get away, regroup, rehab, recover and return with a renewed purpose.
Durant will be back determined to be better than ever. If can do that, and that’s a skyscraper order, Durant will turn many of his haters into lifetime admirers.
If he’s not the same player, that’s OK, too, because regardless of what anyone says or has said, Durant, at his best, is right there with the best to have ever played the game.
Durant should be able to live with that even if everyone else can’t.
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Raptors vs. Warriors in NBA finals