How does one describe Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals for posterity? In the history books, it will primarily be remembered as the game in which Kevin Durant came back from a long injury layoff, perhaps under some pressure from various directions, and apparently tore his Achilles in the second quarter, a heartbreaking end to his season.
In terms of the short-term ramifications, the Warriors won anyways after the Raptors stormed back to take a late lead only to completely collapse in the closing minutes. The Durant injury put a pall on the whole game — especially as some Raptors fans seemed to immediately cheer the injury before Raptors players and the PA announcer shut them up — and it really never felt like a gym where the home team was on the precipice of winning its first ever NBA title. It didnât feel right. It wouldnât have felt right.
Klay Thompson had a heroic performance, Stephen Curry was great, and the Warriors are just about out of cards to play. Two more chances for the Raptors to end it. Two more wins for the Warriorsâ most amazing achievement yet. The Warriors never need extra motivation. But they have now as they try to ensure Durantâs sacrifice wasnât made in vain.
Bob Myers, when announcing that the Durant injury was to the Achilles in an emotional statement at the end of the game, both said thereâs no one to blame in this situation but that he would accept it as the leader of basketball operations.
Someone in the organization was prompting questions about why Durant wasnât playing. Myers is covering for that person or those people.
One positive consequence from this horrific episode could be that we stop questioning playersâ toughness when they are injured, period. Donât make it conditional. Donât make it relative. Donât give a bullhorn and cover to people in the organization trying to pressure the player to get on the court. The benefit to the public of a behind-the-scenes look isnât equal to the cost. If a player says they are injured, if a player is not comfortable playing, donât talk s–t and donât question their motives, their commitment, or their toughness. Just donât.
Letâs assume that the humans dedicating their lives to becoming the best pro athletes they can be actually do want to play their sports in the most critical moments. That seems like a safe bet most of the time.
You know what? DeMarcus Cousins, per usual, said it more succinctly than I did.
Paul Flanneryâs Monday Shootaround on the power of Kawhi Leonard, who almost won the title for the Raptors in a 2-minute stretch before everything went to hell.
Tony Parker retires from basketball after 18 seasons in the NBA. Parker was truly one of the most recognizable basketball stars in the world for like a 2-year stretch when the Spurs were winning championships every other year and his then-wife Eva Longoria had a hit T.V. show. His wedding in Paris made international news! BoBo Diaw looked dapper!
Katie Baker has graced basketball with her voice again, this time about the most important franchise of the NBA offseason: the New York Knicks.
The Spurs lost Ime Udoka to the Sixers last week and now Ettore Messina has agreed to coach Olimpia Milano, a job Emmet Ryan calls the Harrenhal of Europle. Seems fun! Meanwhile, Becky Hammon might end up as Gregg Popovichâs associate head coach this season.
Shams Charania reports in The Athletic that Anthony Davis is focused on the Knicks and Lakers for his long-term future. In fairness to him, heâs built a certain comfort with missing the playoffs most seasons, so thatâs a pretty good fit either way. Meanwhile, David Griffin is forming the foundation of what he wants any Davis deal to look like. It kind of looks like the Lakers are in the driverâs seat.
Marc Gasol has turned Memphis into a stateside Jurassic Park. P.S. GET WELL, BONGO LADY.
Be excellent to each other.