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.
LeBron James stays on social justice message after Lakers clinch first No. 1 in decade
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — LeBron James arrived for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 116-108 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday — a game that clinched the franchise’s first No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in a decade — in a black T-shirt meant to address a message bigger than basketball.
On the front, in white screen print, there was a stopwatch showing the time 8:46 on its face, with “Minneapolis” printed below it. On the back there were several stopwatches — all frozen on 8:46 — with various city names below them, including New York, Houston, Tokyo and Paris. Below the stopwatches there was a message: “The World is Watching This Time.”
James donned the T-shirt hours after body camera video surfaced of George Floyd’s arrest on May 25, before he was killed while in custody of the Minneapolis police.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died after officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeled on his neck while Floyd repeatedly expressed his inability to breathe. It was initially reported that the amount of time Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck was 8 minutes, 46 seconds, but prosecutors have since said the time was 7:46.
James said he had not watched the nearly 10 minutes of body camera footage that was published Monday by the Daily Mail — in which Floyd has a gun pointed at him just six seconds after officers approach and knock on the window of his vehicle while the ignition is off and his hands are up — but he intends to.
James’ shirt was designed by Sloan and Bennett and commissioned by Klutch Sports, the agency that represents James. Sloan and Bennett is a Black-owned business founded by James Patrick Christopher, a former professional basketball player overseas and in the G League who is from Compton, California.
“You think about 8 minutes and 46 seconds, an officer having his knee on someone’s throat for that long. Video or no video, it doesn’t matter,” James said. “No one deserved to lose their life when it could have been prevented from what I’ve seen and from what the world has seen. So that’s what the T-shirt is all about: The world is watching. Everyone knows the time. Everyone knows what’s going on.”
The Lakers’ star, coming off his strongest game in Orlando, Florida, with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, 9 assists and 8 rebounds, said he was reminded of Floyd when the Lakers kneeled for both the U.S. national anthem and the Canadian national anthem before playing the Toronto Raptors over the weekend.
“I think it was a little bit over four minutes,” James said, echoing a sentiment recently shared by the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry and LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “And we actually as a unit, as a team, had to switch our knees over from one knee to the other knee because they started to get sore. They started to kind of start hurting a little bit. And that’s just a little over four minutes.”
Having been at the NBA’s Walt Disney World Resort campus with the Lakers for nearly four weeks on one of 22 teams invited to the league’s restart to finish a season that was interrupted for nearly four-and-a-half months because of the coronavirus, James said it is clear that coming to Orlando has aided in his and his peers’ pursuit of social change.
“There were so many conversations before we got here that this right here, the bubble, us playing basketball would take away from the main thing,” James said. “I think it’s been the absolute opposite of that. It’s given us the opportunity to every single day speak about, feel passionate about whatever is going on in your personal life, whatever is going on in society, us trying to make a change. Being dynamic. Being heard. And using this platform, which is the NBA, the most popular game in the world.
“And we’ve had that support. We’ve had that support from the league. We’ve had that support from the Union. And every player, either if he spoke out or not, has felt like they felt empowered, so if they feel like they want to say something or they feel like they want to hit on a topic, they don’t have to feel pressure. They don’t have to feel like they won’t be heard, like they won’t be supported. And that’s been a great thing to see: that we’ve been able to, as a league and as every individual, been able to voice our truth.”
James devoted more than half of his postgame media session — four of the six questions he fielded — to social justice. When the game came up, he responded with as much earnestness.
For James, who considers himself a student of basketball history, it was a significant night. The Lakers became the first team to clinch a No. 1 seed after a five-year playoff drought. L.A. will play its first playoff game since 2013 later this month, when James will embark on the fifth postseason of his career while playing for a No. 1 seed. The past two times, his team won it all.
But as much as James’ free agency decision to join the Lakers in 2018 changed L.A.’s fortunes, it was the trade for Anthony Davis a year later that put the team back in the championship conversation.
Davis, coming off a season-low seven shot attempts in a loss to Toronto over the weekend, led the Lakers with 42 points on 13-for-28 shooting against Toronto.
“When you’re a great player, you learn from one game,” James said of Davis. “You adjust. And then you turn it into something different the next game, and he absolutely did that tonight.”
Davis’ performance included a 24-point second half, marking the 20th time this season that he has scored 20 or more in half and making him the only Laker besides Kobe Bryant with 20 20-plus-point halves in a season in the past 10 years.
“It means a lot to be in a category with him. I just got chills,” Davis told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols when informed of the feat during an on-court postgame interview. “It’s tough always just talking about him, but to be in a category with him, it means a lot. And I know he’s looking down on us and cheering us on, so we want to do it for him. Like I said, it’s an honor to be even mentioned with his name.”
Bryant led the Lakers the last time they were the No. 1 seed in the West, taking them to the title from that spot in 2010.
“It’s been a long time coming for Laker Nation,” Davis said. “We’re trying to be the best version of the team that we can be. … It’s a good feeling. Obviously, we’re not done, still we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a good accomplishment for our organization.”
Brett Brown rues another late-game collapse for 76ers: ‘I think it stinks’
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For the second straight game, the Philadelphia 76ers appeared to have a game in hand through three quarters.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
After giving up 46 points in the final period and losing in stunning fashion to the Indiana Pacers in their first game Saturday, Philadelphia allowed the San Antonio Spurs to drop 43 on them in the fourth Monday, only to be bailed out by a Shake Milton 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds to go and escape with a 132-130 victory.
“I think it stinks,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said afterward of his team’s lackluster fourth quarters. “I think it’s not anything that we believe in or talk about. We were very lucky to win tonight. In two closeout periods, against Indiana it was 46, tonight it was 43 … that’s not going to get anything of any importance done.
“It is well within our reach, immediately, to flip the switch. We have to have an immediate paradigm switch and an admittance we can’t afford to pick and choose. The past two games, we have done that. I give credit to Indiana and tonight to the Spurs … but in general, it ain’t going to get it done. It’s not who we are, and it needs to be fixed, and fixed it will be.”
“We got to do a better job,” Joel Embiid said. “We want to be the best defensive team in the league, so we have to just take the challenge. It’s not just the fourth quarter. It’s the whole game. The last two games, we haven’t been able to keep our man in front of us, and I have to do a better job of protecting the rim and making sure I can correct some mistakes.”
The fact that this conversation was being had after the game was hard to believe, given the talent gap between the Spurs and 76ers on a normal day. Plus, with the Spurs down several key players because of injury and on the second half of a back-to-back, that gap was even larger.
After Philadelphia finally took control of the game in the third quarter once Joel Embiid, who finished with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, began asserting himself, it seemed that order had been restored, but the Spurs roared back in the fourth quarter with a 40-22 run to take a four-point lead with 90 seconds to go.
Eventually, San Antonio’s lead was whittled to two with 10.4 seconds remaining and the Sixers inbounding the ball. With the Spurs sending a double-team to Embiid in the post, Milton — who on Saturday both played poorly and got in a fight with Embiid between the first and second quarters — was left all alone and calmly drained what turned out to be the winning 3-pointer, saving Philadelphia from what would have been a second straight embarrassing loss.
“We needed it,” Brown said of Milton, who finished with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with three assists and a turnover after going scoreless against the Pacers. “… He wasn’t guarded, they threw him the ball, and he didn’t think. He just shot it. Shake, it’s quite clear he’s an articulate and intelligent man. And the poise and grace he goes about his business with was reflected in that moment. He was very calm. I thought he was great tonight.”
If there were any concerns about Milton and Embiid not getting along after their tiff Saturday, both took to social media after Monday’s victory to celebrate.
For San Antonio, it was a crushing loss on a night that could have seen the Spurs move within one game of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs are trying to make the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.
“Everybody is sick in the stomach,” Spurs guard Dejounte Murray said. “We fought so hard, and we had that game in our hands.”
New Orleans Pelicans extend Zion Williamson to 25 minutes, closing time of win
“I felt alive again,” Williamson told ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “My competitive spirit was there, and I’m glad Coach and the whole team trusted me to finish the game out.”
Williamson was on what the team called a “burst restriction” in the Pelicans’ first two games inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, after returning from quarantine. He did not play down the stretch in the opener last Thursday — a close loss to Utah — and didn’t play in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans were blown out by the Clippers.
So when Williamson, who looked dejected on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Jazz and Clippers, was able to contribute down the stretch in Monday’s win, it made him a happy camper once again.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry and the team medical staff determined pregame that Williamson — who played 15 minutes in the opener and 14 minutes against the Clippers — was going to play about 25 minutes and finish the game.
Williamson was on a restriction after he left the bubble on July 16 for a family medical emergency and didn’t return until July 24. He had to quarantine for four days following his return so he didn’t play in New Orleans’ three scrimmage games.
Because of that, the Pelicans were slowly going to increase his minutes in Orlando. In the locker room, Williamson said his “feeling alive” comment came after he had to watch the Pelicans lose from the sideline.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you, it’s just different in a bad way when I’m on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there’s nothing I can do to help my team win,” Williamson said. “So I said I felt alive — it was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win. And as for the energy part, me and my teammates can just feed off each other.”
Williamson finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and tied his career-high with five assists in just over 25 minutes. He was 9-for-21 from the field, a career high in field goal attempts, and was aggressive from the opening tip.
“It was a little bit of both from myself and the coaching staff,” Williamson said of his early aggressiveness. “They were telling me to try to give the team a spark and that’s what I was trying to do, give my team a spark, get ’em going.”
Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 24 points and he and Williamson combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter.
“Tonight was important,” Ingram said. “Fourth quarter, we had a sense of urgency just to try and end the basketball game, so to speak. We were up seven or up five, but we knew we needed some key buckets at the end that we had to get. We knew we had to move the basketball, get into the interior and find the open guy. That’s what we worked on.”
Gentry said it was nice for both Ingram and Williamson to get going at the same time to help lift the Pelicans to a much-needed victory.
“I think it’s great,” Gentry said. “Obviously, we didn’t mince words at all. We knew this was a game we had to win to even stay afloat at all so I thought our guys did a really good job with it. And when you have two really young players like that who stepped up for you, and Josh Hart, you know, Josh is a very young kid, too. I think if you look at it, we have a good, young nucleus of players along with some of the veteran guys we have.”
Hart had 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench for New Orleans, who stayed in the Western Conference playoff hunt with the win. New Orleans is 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth seed.
Hart said it was big to get the victory, especially considering how New Orleans has let some close ones slip away this season — including the bubble opener against Utah. “We’ve got five games left now, but if we don’t get it now, we won’t be playing Aug. 18 or whenever,” Hart said, referencing the playoffs. “It was big in terms of morale to get this win.”
“Man, that’s respect,” Williamson said. “Like I can’t do nothing but respect that. I watch him up there all game playing great defense. And he does it his own way… He gets our team going on defense.”
According to Second Spectrum data, Morant went 2-for-7 when Holiday was the closest defender, but Holiday also went under on several screens, forcing Morant into more 3-pointers than usual. Morant was 1-for-10, with career highs in 3-point attempts and 3-point misses.
Gentry credited his team with adapting to Williamson’s restrictions over the first two games and figuring out a way to come out on top.
“You miss a guy for 44 games and then you drop him and he’s a huge factor to what we are doing,” Gentry said. “But one thing I like about our team: we’ve got a lot of guys who can adapt to situations and guys who can adapt to a player of his magnitude into our lineup. Our guys want to win, and I think that’s the key right there. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what our players want.”
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