Kevin Durant confirmed on Instagram that he suffered a ruptured right Achilles during Game 5 of The Finals. The photo posted on Wednesday shows Durant recovering from surgery in a hospital bed.
“My road back starts now!” Durant wrote in the caption. “I got my family and loved ones by my side and we truly appreciate all the messages and support people have sent our way.
“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.”
“We made the decision collaboratively with all the information that we had and we thought it was the right one.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 12, 2019
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said during Wednesday’s media availability that the team had no idea Durant risked a serious Achilles injury by returning from a strained calf.
“Kevin checked all the boxes,” Kerr said. “He was cleared to play by everybody involved. Now, would we go back and do it over again? You damn right. But that’s easy to say with the results.”
Durant left in the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a game Golden State went on to win 106-105 to keep its season alive. The Warriors All-Star forward was seen leaving the arena on crutches and in a walking boot.
He got hurt on a dribble on the right wing, coming up lame on a crossover move and falling to the floor. He grabbed the back of his leg, appeared to grab below the calf and more toward the Achilles area, and needed help to limp to the bench area and more help to get back to the Warriors’ locker room. Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was on Durant’s left side as they made the long walk back to the room, with Bob Myers and Stephen Curry in the group immediately behind them.
He shouted an expletive as he left the floor, his frustration obvious. He was supposed to be one of the marquee free agents this summer, but may now end up exercising his $31.5 million option to stay with the Warriors — especially if he’s going to be sidelined for an extended period.
Players have made comebacks off Achilles surgery, with relative levels of success.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kobe Bryant, and Rudy Gay all came back; Cousins hasn’t regained past form yet. Dominique Wilkins had an Achilles tear happen to him at the peak of his career and he arguably was good as ever afterward. Elton Brand, now leading the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office, had it as a player and said he was never the same. Christian Laettner went from a star to a role player when his Achilles ripped.
“I’ve been there,” 15-time golf major winner Tiger Woods said Tuesday at the U.S. Open. “I’ve had it to my own Achilles. I’ve had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It’s an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That’s the hard part.”
Before returning to the floor on Monday night, Durant had been sidelined for more than a month with a strained calf suffered in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets.
Durant was cleared by the Warriors’ medical staff after Game 4, and participated in both a practice session Sunday and a shootaround practice earlier Monday. The Warriors had said throughout his month-long absence that they did not want him back on the floor until he was right, for fear of the exact scenario they now face — Durant being out longer than just a few weeks.
He played well in Game 5, scoring 11 points in 12 minutes while making all three of his 3-point attempts. He started and played the first six minutes, then had the lower leg wrapped with a heating pad to keep it loose before he returned about three minutes later.
Then, it all came crashing down and the Warriors were left to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all after their latest Finals win.
“It’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now,” Kerr said. “An incredible win and a horrible loss at the same time.”
“It sucks. I feel so bad for him, his camp,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “He’s going to come back stronger though. That’s the kind of fighter he is and I’m going to miss him, man. It’s not the same being out there without him.”
Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers was openly emotional when he told media members after Game 5 that the injury was to Durant’s right Achilles.
“He’s one of the most misunderstood people,” Myers said. “He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person, it’s not fair. I’m lucky to know him. I don’t have all the information on what really the extent of what it all means until we get a MRI, but the people that worked with him and cleared him are good people, they’re good people.”
Myers said he felt the team had done all it could to ensure the two-time Finals MVP’s safe return to action and offered himself as a target of criticism in light of the injury.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand this world,” Myers said. “If you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.”
This is Durant’s first serious injury since the 2014-15 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, when a fracture in his right foot ultimately limited him to 27 games. In October of 2014, he suffered a “Jones fracture” in his foot and had surgery that sidelined him until December of that year. He played off and on for the next two months before he was shut down for the season to have a third surgery on the fractured bone in his foot.
Since joining the Warriors in the summer of 2016, Durant has been mostly healthy. He missed 19 straight games in his first season with Golden State because of a strained MCL in his left knee. He missed two first-round playoff games in 2017 as well because of a strained left calf muscle, but was healthy the rest of the way en route to Finals MVP honors and his first NBA championship.
This season, Durant averaged 26 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. In the playoffs, he’s averaged 32.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 4.5 apg and 1 bpg. The Warriors are 6-3 in these playoffs when Durant sits out, with their last Durant-less playoff win coming in Game 2 of The Finals.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.