How Kevin Durant’s injury alters the NBA landscape — this summer and beyond

TORONTO – Rarely is an NBA Finals victory as subdued as Golden State’s over Toronto in Game 5 on Monday.

But rarely does an NBA Finals game see a devastating injury to one of the game’s stars.

Now what for Kevin Durant?

His latest injury sustained in Golden State’s Game 5 victory – and the concern is that it’s an Achilles tear – could have a ripple effect not only on Durant and Golden State’s prospects of winning a third consecutive NBA championship, but on Durant’s future, free agency this summer, the 2019-20 season and the NBA record books.

The implications are far, wide and deep.

Kevin Durant warms up prior to Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (Photo: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

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The extent of the injury won’t be known until the Warriors get results of an MRI scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. But there is a clinical exam called the Simmonds-Thompson test which doctors and athletic trainers use to test for an Achilles rupture, according to certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts.

While the Warriors wait for the MRI, they fear the worst. Late Monday night, emotional Warriors general manager Bob Myers had trouble getting words out in defense of Durant and his desire to get back on the court following the strained calf he sustained on May 8 against Houston in the Western Conference semifinals.

Durant’s immediate future

If those worst fears are confirmed, Durant will likely miss next season. Achilles ruptures are not common, at least compared to other serious injuries such as torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee. There have been many serious Achilles injuries across the NBA in recent years, including ones sustained by big-name players: Kobe Bryant, Brandon Jennings, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall and now Durant.

The NBA is looking closely at Achilles injuries because of the potential impact they have on a player’s long-term career. The league doesn’t have a large sample size to study, but it does know the structure of the tendon changes over time and could become more susceptible to a rupture. The NBA is trying to figure out why it happens to some players and not others.

Regardless, it’s an injury that likely sidelines a player for a season and can have an impact on that player’s future. Cousins, who sustained his Achilles rupture in 2018, missed the equivalent of a full season – half of one season, half of another – and then sustained a quadriceps injury 32 games later after returning this season.

The rehab is long and grueling, and there is concern the player will never be the same.

The here and now for Golden State

The Warriors were down 3-1 in the Finals against the Raptors before Durant’s brief return in Game 5. In his short time on the court – 11 minutes, 57 seconds – Durant scored 11 points and made all three 3-pointers he attempted. He helped Golden State to an early 39-34 lead at the time of his injury, and the Warriors extended their advantage to 52-39.

Durant helped Golden State win, and you can argue that if he hadn’t played in Game 5, the series would be over and the Raptors would be celebrating their first NBA championship. His early scoring was necessary for the Warriors to force a sixth game.

Without Durant for the rest of the series, the Warriors have to deal with the emotions of losing a star while combatting the relentless Raptors. Golden State had a 77-63 lead in the third quarter, lost the lead and needed a 9-2 run to close out the game and win by a point.

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