Kawhi Leonard on Kevin Durant's Injury: 'I've Been in That Situation Before'June 11, 2019
Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant did everything he could to work his way back from a calf injury, only to suffer an Achilles injury upon his return Monday. For Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, it was a relatable situation.
Leonard told reporters after a 106-105 loss in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Monday:
"It's devastating. You work so hard to get to this point, you know, these are the last games. You see he tried to come out and push himself, but obviously he tried to do a move and I feel bad for him. I've been in that situation before. I hope he has a speedy recovery and just gets healthy and hope that he’s going to be OK mentally, just throughout the whole rehab process.
"Like I said before, we work so hard to either play in a Finals or just play in the NBA, and you know, when you're not playing, you know, it's hard to wrap your [mind] around it. I'm pretty sure he's going to attack each day, you know, and get better and come back strong."
Leonard, then with the San Antonio Spurs, missed the first 27 games of the 2017-18 season due to a quadriceps injury before suiting up. After appearing in just nine games, he would not see the court last season after Jan. 13.
Leonard's injury created an uncomfortable situation in San Antonio. The team cleared him to play by February 2018, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, but the 2014 Finals MVP did not feel as though he was healthy enough to play, even as the Spurs fought to make the playoffs.
Ultimately, the injury led to distrust and damaged the relationship between the player and the organization enough to where Leonard requested a trade last offseason. Toronto acquired him last July.
Durant, meanwhile, had missed Golden State's last nine games after exiting Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals with a leg injury. After an Achilles injury was ruled out, he was diagnosed with a right calf strain.
There was no timetable put on a potential return, though Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed just more than a week into the recovery process that it was "more serious" than initially believed. Durant later acknowledged it was the most severe calf injury he had dealt with:
Kerr made it known that he was willing to insert Durant into the lineup after just one practice. The issue, though, was that the two-time Finals MVP had not been healthy enough to even practice until last weekend.
Durant participated in practice Sunday, although ESPN.com's Nick Friedell reported it didn't appear to be anything "substantial." He showed enough, however, Sunday and Monday to be cleared for Game 5 as the Warriors faced a 3-1 deficit.
Unfortunately, he made it through only 12 minutes Monday before going down with a non-contact injury.
Golden State president of basketball operations Bob Myers said after Game 5 that he didn't believe anyone was to blame for the injury. But with an MRI scheduled for Tuesday, Durant's season appears to be all but over.
Like Leonard (who holds a $21.3 million player option for 2019-20), Durant had to weigh the pros and cons of his long-term health as well as his future finances before returning. Durant holds a $31.5 million player option for next season. While he has long been expected to explore his market this offseason, his injury could play a role in his decision.