TORONTO — You want to blame someone. I get it.

You need to be able to explain why one of the greatest players of all time — perhaps the greatest scorer in the history of the NBA — is going to be robbed of perhaps a full year of his prime, and perhaps of the full capacity of his superpowers.

A finger must be pointed — this is a travesty and there are dots sitting out there that are too easy to connect.

Kevin Durant took the court 32 days after injuring his right calf on Monday, playing in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and 12 game minutes later, he ruptured his right Achilles tendon.

So who is at fault? Who should be blamed?

“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand this world and if you have to, you can blame me,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said through tears after he relayed the injury news following Golden State’s win. “I run our basketball operations department.”

Myers is right. But it’s not his fault, or Durant’s fault, the Warriors coaches’ fault, or even the Warriors’ training staff’s fault.

No one is innocent in this situation, but no one is guilty, either.

The truth of the matter is that stuff happens — terrible, unfair stuff — and while hindsight leaves everyone thinking that something like what happened Monday could have been avoided — should have been avoided — everything is just a bit more complicated than that.

No one likes gray areas. No one likes having to chock things up to luck. But in this case, those two are coming together in the worst possible way and everyone is going to have to live with that ugliness.

But trust me when I say this: if there was any funny business regarding Durant’s injury — if the Warriors organization or medical staff pressured him or set him up to fail in any way — it will come out soon. Durant is a free agent at the end of the month — he will have no encumbrance to airing dirty laundry if there is any to be found in this situation.

In the hours between Game 4 and Game 5 of these NBA Finals (which will now have a Game 6), there was plenty of speculation — and that’s the generous term for it — about Durant’s “desire” to play in this series.

It was baseless and fundamentally misunderstanding of Durant himself.

Know this: Durant has always wanted to be out on the court. He’s an all-time great player from a far-less-than-ideal upbringing — Durant is hyper-competitive, and he finds the peace and meaning that is often missing from his world on the court.

And it was the NBA Finals — the ultimate stage. It was killing him to not be out on the court. I saw it firsthand outside of the Raptors’ locker room earlier in the series — he was yelling at the television, cheering on his teammates as if his life depended on the game. The angst that he was not helping in the best way he knows how — playing — was palpable.

But calf injuries are finicky, as anyone who has had one will tell you. Durant’s didn’t heal as fast as he and everyone around him wanted.

There was ample frustration all around when it came to that.

Add in the Warriors’ vague public diagnosis after the injury was first suffered — they called it a “mild” strain, which led many to believe it was a two-to-four-week Grade 1, not a four-to-eight week Grade 2 — the team’s consistent optimism, projected to the media, that Durant would be playing once the NBA Finals started and throughout the series, and the general firewall between the training staff and the coaching staff (which is stronger than you would think), and you had expectations outpacing reality.

And in this stage of the season — where there is more media attention on the Warriors than ever — it was inevitable that those expectations became reality.

Register for more free articles.
Stay logged in to skip the surveys.

But to say that the Warriors forced Durant to play in Game 5 is ludicrous.

No one held a gun to his head and told him that he needed to be on the court… or else.

And to say that Golden State pressured him — passive aggressively — to play in Game 5 is to undercut the player’s agency in this situation.

Also, if the team doctors rushed him back, knowing that something like Monday was eminently possible, then they’ve ensured that they’ll never work again.

Remember, only hours before, some were alleging that Durant didn’t have the heart or mental toughness to play. But after Game 5, he had so much toughness and heart it was on the Warriors to save him from himself?

I suppose both of those things could be true — but only if you give the media and people on Twitter far too much credence. Yes, even when it comes to Durant.

Here are the facts of the case:

Calf injuries are not binary. This isn’t a broken bone or a pain-threshold injury. No one — the injured person or the medical team working with them — can ever be 100% sure about being back at 100 percent.

Durant was not cleared by the medical team to fully practice, much less play, until before Game 5. Once he was cleared, he practiced to solid reviews.

Remember, he tried to come back before Game 4. Those workouts did not go well. The fact that he was able to try was progress, but both Durant and the Warriors acknowledged that he wasn’t ready. Hope was held out that another couple of days could make a difference.

Maybe Durant and the Warriors’ medical team both lowered their standards before Game 5. Myers did say Monday that the decision to play him was a “collaborate effort”, after all.

Then again, in warmups Monday, Durant was doing spin moves and finished on a massive dunk.

Then he went out and scored 11 points in 12 minutes of Game 5, playing rock-solid defense on the other end of the court as well.

If he wasn’t right, about 99% of the league would love to be that wrong.

In those minutes, the baseless comments I was seeing come across my Twitter timeline were that the Warriors had held him out too long — that if he looked that good in Game 5, he should have been playing in Game 4.

Then his foot planted, his Achilles gave out, and no one was saying anything like that anymore.

It’s easy to connect Durant’s calf injury and the Achilles injury — to say that they’re not connected in some way is to be deliberately naive.

But that’s life. It doesn’t always make sense, and it sure as hell isn’t always fair.

Stuff happens.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments