Kevin Durant was reportedly in agony about not helping the Warriors deep into the playoffs. His teammates were reportedly frustrated he hadn’t returned.
Did Durant – who tore his Achilles just 12 minutes into his return after a month-long absence – feel pressured (internally, externally or both) to rush back?
Durant has yet to speak publicly on the saga, but Golden State forward Andre Iguodala can relate. He missed the final four games of last year’s Western Conference finals against the Rockets and first two games of the NBA Finals with what the team called a “left lateral leg contusion” (fancy word for bruise).
Iguodala on The Breakfast Club:
We have a really good training staff. I’ll give credit where credit’s due. Our training staff is one of the best in the world. And I feel like they got him back. The tough thing is, when you’re an athlete and you’re hurt, everybody is looking at you sideways. And then it being his teammate is harder, because everyone is feeding stuff in our head. “When is KD coming back? When is KD coming back?”
Last year, it happened to me. I missed last three games of the Houston series. It goes to Game 7. We barely get out of that series. And now they’re looking at me like, “When are you coming back?” And I had a fractured leg. But it’s being put out there like, “You’ve got a bone bruise.” I’m like, “Nah, it’s fractured.” So, I’m fighting with the team. I’m fighting with people. I’m fighting with the media. And then my teammates ask me every day, “How you feeling? How you feeling?”
So, with K, he’s getting it from everywhere, too.
What do they always say in sports? “Oh, he’s a tough guy. He plays through injuries.” You’re validated as an athlete if you win a championship or how tough you were. If you sit out, it’s like, “Ah, he’s not tough.”
This is a damning assessment of the Warriors. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but Iguodala is alleging at least one of two things:
1. They misdiagnosed him.
2. They downplayed the extent of the injury publicly.
It could have been both.
A misdiagnosis is obviously troublesome. But downplaying the extent of the injury brings its own problems.
As Iguodala said, that only increased chatter about his return. With so many people talking to him about coming back, it’d be only natural to feel pressure to return. Iguodala is exactly right: Playing through injury gets players praised as tough.
Golden State misleading the public about the injury would also cause issues as the NBA embraces gambling. That opens the door for certain bettors to get inside information.
This sounds a lot like the Durant situation.
The Warriors can talk about how much they care about their players. But a pattern is emerging of injured players being put into peril.
It might be too late with Durant, but Golden State must address this.