When Kevin Durant made his return to the floor after missing 32 days with a right calf injury to try and help propel the Golden State Warriors back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, there was an underlying fear of the worst case scenario. With Durant probably not 100 percent recovered from the injury he suffered against the Houston Rockets, the potential for the Warriors star to re-injure himself felt high despite being cleared for Game 5.
Then, with just a few minutes gone by in the second quarter, the darkest timeline came to fruition. Durant injured his Achilles as he pushed off with his right foot on a drive and immediately collapsed to the floor. As he limped off to the locker room with the help of his teammates, thoughts quickly turned to how his recovery might affect his looming free agency, where a group of teams are jostling for his services this summer.
After the game, in which the Warriors escaped with a one-point win to force a Game 6, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst remarked that Durant’s injury “changed” the entire NBA. If Durant indeed suffered what many fear to be a torn Achilles, there’s potential that he’ll miss the entirety of the 2020-2021 season as he rehabs back, and then there’s the uncertainty of how much of Durant’s explosiveness will remain intact. Durant’s teammate DeMarcus Cousins, who tore his Achilles last season, remains a shadow of his former self, and Kobe Bryant’s Achilles injury late in his career essentially led to his retirement.
The New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and other teams with their eyes on luring Durant this summer must now consider the risk of signing a player coming off an Achilles injury to a max deal. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, there’s no hesitation.
“I talked to three teams and, I didn’t even get the question out. I said ‘If you had cap space, would you go out and sign Kevin Durant knowing that he will likely be out maybe the whole year?’ The resounding answer was, ‘Yes,'” Marks said during an appearance on Get Up Tuesday morning.
Marks went on to say that those same teams said they wouldn’t even bother to put in any injury language in the later stages of Durant’s contract to protect themselves against another major injury, should Durant suffer one. So while Durant’s injury has certainly sent shockwaves through the NBA, it doesn’t sound like it will prevent any NBA teams from chasing him this summer or him cashing in on a max deal.