Kevin Durant tragically tore his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals against the Toronto Raptors with the Golden State Warriors. It was the only game he appeared in during the Finals, as Durant missed Games 1 through 4 because of the right calf strain he suffered in the second round of the playoffs versus the Houston Rockets.
Game 5 of the 2019 Finals wound up being Durant’s last contest with the Warriors. The two-time Finals MVP signed a four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019, joining forces with Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan — two of his closest friends in the NBA.
The Warriors acquired All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell in the Durant sign-and-trade deal, though the Dubs wound up trading Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins at the 2020 trade deadline.
Once the 2019 Finals ended, there were multiple reports stating that Durant wasn’t happy with how the Warriors handled his right calf injury. Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher even went as far as saying the Dubs misled Durant.
“What I’ve heard, through various places, is that he’s not really happy with how things went down because of the injury,” Bucher said, via Karl Buscheck of 95.7 The Game. “There’s an element of, ‘Was I misled as far as injuring myself coming back and playing and having a catastrophic injury like this coming off a calf strain?’
“We don’t know, definitively, exactly what was said, how much was said, how much he was aware of that, but I can tell you that people in the KD camp, people are running for cover because they don’t want to be holding the bag on who led him astray. Because the bottom line is, what Steve Kerr said, ‘We didn’t think he could get injured worse.’ If Steve Kerr was told that, I’m sure KD was told that. And now he’s looking at the prospect of not playing for, possibly, a year and having his free agency upended. I don’t see how that makes him happier with the Warriors than he was before.”
For what it’s worth, when Durant spoke to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports on August 7, 2019, the superstar small forward denied that the Warriors rushed him back for the 2019 Finals.
KD also said there was no one to blame for his injury and that “sh*t happens.”
“Hell, no. How can you blame [the Warriors]? Hell, no,” Durant said. “I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back. It was only me and [director of sports medicine and performance] Rick [Celebrini] working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. Hell, nah. It just happened. It’s basketball. S— happens. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that s— because I’m going to be back playing.”
Even if Durant was pressured to come back behind the scenes, there is no way he’s going to admit that in an interview with a high-profile media guy like Haynes.
However, numerous pundits across the NBA landscape thought that the Warriors were lying about Durant’s injury from day one. When KD got hurt against the Rockets, he immediately looked behind him as if someone kicked his leg. That’s what every player does when they tear their Achilles, not when they strain a calf muscle.
Though it’s not certain this is related to his injury, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, a lack of respect for Durant within the Warriors organization is one of the reasons KD departed from Golden State.
When asked about all of the negative things that transpired with Kevin Durant and the Warriors over the past year, a source close to Durant said: “All that showed a lack of respect for one of the greatest players to put that uniform on and the fact that he took all that abuse and still put his career on the line to help them win.”
The partnership between Durant and the Warriors was a success for both sides. KD won two straight Finals MVPs and Golden State added two more rings to their collection.
However, everyone in Golden State wanted the marriage to last longer than three seasons. Sure, Durant might have left the Warriors regardless if he tore his Achilles or not, but it’s got to be maddening for Warriors supporters to think about the “what ifs.”
What if Draymond Green didn’t call Kevin Durant a “bitch” during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers? What if Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had never said, “We didn’t think he could get injured worse?”
These are all questions Warriors general manager Bob Myers probably thought about in the immediate aftermath of Durant’s decision to join the Nets.