It’s crazy how one moment, one second, can change the landscape of an entire league, but that is what happened in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night.
Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant, an impending free agent whose upcoming offseason has been the hottest topic of discussion in basketball all season long, suffered an Achilles injury in the first half, an injury that is being reported to be a torn Achilles.
So, basically, the worst injury that any pro athlete could suffer.
Obviously, this not only has a tremendous impact on the finals, but it has a ripple effect across the NBA in general, as now, teams that may have been planning on pursuing Durant may have to consider exploring other avenues.
One such team is the New York Knicks, the club that has long been considered the odds-on favorite to land Durant this summer.
The question is, what do the Knicks do now that Durant’s career may have been permanently altered? Do they still pursue Durant in July, or do they pivot and go in a different direction?
As painful as it may be for New York’s front office and its fans to admit, the wisest course of action would be the Knicks turning their attention elsewhere this offseason.
Durant will likely miss all of next season, as a torn Achilles comes with around a year-long rehabilitation period. Just ask DeMarcus Cousins, who tore his Achilles in January 2018 and did not return until January 2019.
Given the fact that he will turn 31 years old in September, that means he will be 32 by the time he is likely ready to play again, and even then, it takes a while for a player to regain his bearings after coming back from such a horrific injury.
And of course, the history for players trying to come back from a torn Achilles is not encouraging, with Dominique Wilkins representing the only NBA player ever to successfully return from an Achilles tear.
So, if the Knicks sign Durant to a four-year max contract, it will essentially turn into a three-year deal, and that first year back will almost surely not be pretty for Durant.
Realistically then, New York would then get two years, at best, out of Durant, and by the time he is ready to seriously contribute again, he will be 33 years old, and who knows how his body will handle all of that by that point.
The Knicks do not exactly have a good track record of prosperous free-agent signings. New York is still recovering from the disastrous years in the early-to-mid 2000s, which makes signing an aging star dealing with a torn Achilles that much more perilous.
Clearly, the Knicks have been building toward this moment. Yes, Kristaps Porzingis did want out, but New York did not seem to have much of a problem pushing him out the door, as the Knicks knew that trading him would relieve them of the responsibility of debating whether or not they should re-sign him this summer.
That, in turn, opened up future cap space in order to land Durant and another star like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, but Monday night changed all of that.
Now, New York has to decided whether or not going all in on Durant is worth it, especially considering that guys like Irving or Walker may not be all that willing to play out a year sans Durant in the Big Apple.
The Knicks’ plans came crumbling down in one fleeting moment on Monday evening, and as a result, the best route to take may be the one they never had any intention of taking at all.