Thu, Jun 13, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Durant injury sends shock waves across NBA teams

AFP, OAKLAND, California

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, center, is helped off the court in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Monday.

Photo: AP

When Kevin Durant fell to the court with a right Achilles injury, he sent shockwaves across the NBA, some teams having prepared for years to make him huge free-agent offers in July.

The Golden State Warriors superstar forward is now looking at a year of intense rehabilitation and another season of working his way back to peak form, changing the dynamic of where dozens of top players might play next season.

Durant, who missed the past month with a right calf injury, on Monday suffered a right Achilles tendon injury in Golden State’s 106-105 NBA Finals victory over Toronto, pulling the Warriors within 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.

Suddenly the landscape of decisionmaking has changed under NBA salary cap rules, the first domino expected to fall having been Durant’s choice.

Maybe now he does not opt out of his Warriors contract and takes US$31.5 million to rehabilitate in familiar surroundings with teammates who see him as a “brother.”

“We miss him. That’s our brother,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson, himself a free agent come July. “This is the best player in the world. With him, we are really one of the greatest teams to ever play.”

Or, maybe he is unhappy about how he was used by the Warriors while hurt and is pushed to leave even more, having twice already been the NBA Finals most valuable player in winning his first two league crowns.

Then there is the market of NBA clubs. Do they risk a maximum offer to an injured Durant who might never again be the same dominating player he has been?

The New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are among clubs that have made moves for years to clear cap room for this moment, but Durant’s effect on the court is delayed at least a year, if not longer.

Durant, who turns 31 in September, jilted Oklahoma City and star playmaker Russell Westbrook to join the Warriors after the 2016 campaign.

His fate is yet to affect the next teams for such stars as Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, who can opt out of his contract even if he leads the Raptors to the NBA crown, plus Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler.

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