Warriors handle whirlwind of emotions amid Kevin Durant injury, Game 5 win

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TORONTO – Warriors general manager Bob Myers fought back tears. Coach Steve Kerr was somber. Players spoke in hushed tones.

And this was on a night Golden State won Game 5 of the NBA Finals to stave off elimination!

The strange scene stemmed from Kevin Durant‘s Achilles injury, which forced him from the game in the second quarter.

Any feelings of frustration have morphed into sadness and inspiration. Durant returned from a month-long absence, played well then re-injured himself in a whirlwind stretch to open the game. Everyone is still processing their feelings, but the unified message from the Warriors now: They stand with Kevin Durant.

They also showed they’re good enough to win without him, at least for a night and only with his early boost.

Stephen Curry was at the center of both causes.

Curry’s last five seasons can be split into two distinct periods – before Durant and with Durant.

In the former, Curry won back-to-back MVPs. He was the Warriors’ undisputed best player and good enough to lead them to the 2015 title, 73 wins the next season and Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. His on-court excellence commanded respect, and he rose to his natural leadership position.

In the latter, Curry often deferred to his co-superstar. Golden State still belonged to Curry, and he clearly took on the burden of making Durant feel welcome.

Both sides of Curry came through when Durant got hurt.

Curry left the game to walk with Durant and Andre Iguodala toward the locker room. Though he usually frames his desire to accommodate Durant in terms of doing whatever it takes to win, Curry gave a different explanation for this gesture.

“Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships and the greatness that you see on the floor,” Curry said. “But life is more important in terms of caring about an individual.”

Curry still found his way back to Golden State’s bench in time to regroup his team.

“You could kind of just feel the life just go right out of us,” Draymond Green said. “But to Steph’s credit, he kind of rallied the troops. He talked to everybody, went around the huddle and just told everybody to stay locked in and do this for Kevin.”

It became like old times – Curry and Klay Thompson scoring, Green doing a bit of everything. Add a dash of DeMarcus Cousins, and the Warriors had enough to beat the Raptors.

At least after Durant’s important start.

Golden State outscored Toronto by six in Durant’s 12 minutes. Toronto outscored Golden State by five in the other 36 minutes.

In three years, Durant has made a deep impact on the Warriors – mostly for better and occasionally for worse. He attracts drama, but he also produces in these big games. With 11 points in 12 minutes, Durant became the first player to enter an NBA Finals this deep into the series and score double digits in his first game. He has also been open about his life journey and trying to find himself – endearing himself to a few of us.

“He’s one of the most misunderstood people,” Myers said. “He’s a good teammate, he’s a good person, it’ not fair. I’m lucky to know him.

“Sports is people. I know Kevin takes a lot of hits sometimes. But he just wants to play basketball, and right now, he can’t. Basketball has gotten him through his life. So it means – I don’t know that we can all understand how much it means to him. He just wants to play basketball with his teammates and compete.”

It seems unlikely that will happen again this season, but an MRI on Tuesday will reveal more.

In the meantime, Durant’s latest injury has brought him and the rest of the Warriors even closer together. Eventually, they’ll have to snap out of this funk and prepare for Game 6. But their motivation will be easy to find.

“We do it for Kevin,” Thompson said. “We do it for K.”

Nets fined $25K for injury-reporting violation

Brooklyn Nets
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Earlier this season, Kyrie Irving missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Throughout the absence, the Nets provided few details and no clear timeline. Eventually, a report said Irving could miss 2-3 additional weeks with bursitis. The Nets denied it. Later, Irving confirmed he had bursitis then returned nearly three weeks after the report.

Finally, Brooklyn caught the league’s ire.

NBA release:

The NBA today announced that the Brooklyn Nets have been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.

It’s unclear what specifically caused this violation. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Jamal Crawford and Rodions Kurucs have all appeared on the Nets’ injury report during the resumption. As 19-point underdog, Brooklyn pulled a historic upset of the Bucks. Remember, public injury disclosures are primarily about preserving gambling integrity.

For the NBA not to reveal even basic details while fining the Nets for their lack of transparency is ironic. It’s also ironic this fine comes amid a restart that featured the NBA being highly secretive about player heath.

The Clippers got fined $50,000 earlier this season for saying Kawhi Leonard was healthy. What did Brooklyn do that was less egregious but still worth of a fine?

LeBron James says Lakers have off-court issues, out vs. Rockets (groin)

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers’ offense has stumbled so far in the bubble.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.”

Mike Trudell of the Lakers:

Was LeBron referring to his groin injury? I wouldn’t call that an off-court issue, but maybe he would.

LeBron knows how to work the media. This subtle comment will draw attention and sets up LeBron to look better if he leads the Lakers through this mysterious issue.

Without more context, it’s easy for imaginations to wander – especially about a team with Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. The Lakers could be facing a major hurdle. Or a minor nuisance. Who knows? But the unknown is scary.

It’ll be difficult to detect the Lakers’ progress during remaining seeding games. The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and without a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, there’s no reason to chase the NBA’s best overall record. That’s why LeBron missing tonight’s game against the Rockets could be mostly precautionary.

76ers: Ben Simmons suffered subluxation of knee cap, considering treatment options

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Ben Simmons injured his knee during the 76ers’ win over the Wizards yesterday.

The diagnosis is in, and the prognosis sounds worrisome.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

How quickly will Simmons recover? Once he recovers, will he face elevated risk of re-injury?

These questions now haunt Simmons and Philadelphia.

Simmons is a young star who’ll begin a max contract extension next season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons opened Philadelphia’s championship window, and now rain is drizzling through. Philadelphia can’t reach it ceiling without Simmons healthy and providing value.

Even more modest goals in a disjointed season will be more difficult to reach.

The 76ers were just adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward. Now, they must again re-configure their plan – maybe for a significant chunk of the remainder of the season.

Even more burden falls onto Embiid, who has been shouldering so much with this mismatched roster. Simmons plays across the positional spectrum, so any number of 76ers could fill in while he’s out. Many of those lesser players will complement Embiid more smoothly than Simmons did. But the talent deficit without Simmons can’t be offset.

That’s the scary issue for now – and maybe a while.

Kelly Loeffler calls WNBA players supporting her opponent for senate ‘out of control cancel culture’

Sue Bird wears shirt supporting Raphael Warnock in senate race against Kelly Loeffler
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WNBA players and Kelly Loeffler hit a stalemate.

Players want to oust Loeffler as Atlanta Dream co-owner because Loeffler – a Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia – holds political stances they disagree with and is advocating against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler said she won’t sell, and the league won’t force her out.

So, players have turned to Loeffler’s senate race, wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” shirts in support of Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

Loeffler statement:

ATLANTA—Today, political outsider and conservative businesswoman Kelly Loeffler issued the following statement in response to WNBA players wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” t-shirts. The shirts endorse Kelly’s Democrat opponent, Raphael Warnock, following her criticism of the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter political organization.

“This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball, and I stand by what I wrote in June:

“We come together around sports, but promoting a political agenda divides us rather than unites us. The lives of every African American matter, and there’s no place for racism in our country. But I oppose the BLM political organization due to its radical ideas and Marxist foundations, which include defunding the police and eroding the nuclear family. On the other hand, our flag represents our values of freedom and equality for all. If we can’t unite behind our flag, much less the national anthem during this struggle, then what keeps us together? It’s sad to see that there’s more interest in tearing our country apart than in solutions that bring us together. I’ll continue to defend American values and our flag, because this is not a game – it’s the future of our country. “

“Cancel culture” is a vague term with shifting definitions. But people supporting voting for one political candidate over another? That comes nowhere near any reasonable definition of cancel culture.

WNBA players are not just basketball players. They’re human beings with varied interests – including politics. That should come perfectly naturally to a self-described “political outsider” who’s a sitting senator and running for re-election. If it’s reasonable for Loeffler to be interested in politics (it is), it reasonable for WNBA players to be interested in politics.

As far as Loeffler restating her previous points, she remains errant.