Kevin Durant's Achilles injury sparks blame game, strong urge to vent

Kevin Durant's Achilles injury sparks blame game, strong urge to vent

OAKLAND -- So often a hurricane unto themselves, the Warriors are now at the center of a raging debate that transcends sports or politics or personality. Their integrity is under attack and their compassion is being questioned.

We all know why: Kevin Durant’s return to the court Monday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, after a 32-day absence due to what was described as a calf injury, began with a brilliant 12 minutes of basketball and ended in sudden tragedy that landed him in surgery 36 hours later.

Though there are no regrets from the Warriors and, more significantly, from Durant, we’ve been inundated with heated chatter on TV and radio, as well as various social media outlets. Durant’s injury is ground zero for a finger-pointing epidemic.

“Everybody has great 20/20 hindsight,” Stephen Curry said Wednesday.

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley says KD should not have been playing and that the Warriors are to be blamed. NBA Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady says, nah, that KD did what great athletes do. Former NBA player Eddie Johnson agrees with McGrady.

Former NFL cornerback Charles Woodson and current NFL cornerback Richard Sherman agree with McGrady and Johnson. Former NBA center -- and ex-teammate of Durant -- Kendrick Perkins says, nah, and blames the Warriors for “pressuring that man to play.”

Such madness tends to surface in moments of misfortune or failure. Emotions never flare higher than in the midst of anger or the wake of loss. It happens with the death or serious accidents involving loved ones, with incidents that bring pain and even with natural disasters that alter lives.

Folks seek answers and, failing to get a response that satisfies, assign blame.

Bob Myers, president of basketball operations for the Warriors, visualizing this reaction, walked up to the podium two hours after KD went down and accepted responsibility.

“As Bob mentioned the other night, there's going to be blame,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “There's going to be finger pointing. We understand that and we accept that. This is kind of what you sign up for when you get into coaching, general management, in the NBA. There is all kinds of coverage, judgment, criticism. And it's all part of it, so we accept that.”

The Warriors’ medical staff, with Dr. Rick Celebrini, is taking blows for not realizing Durant was vulnerable. Kerr is being criticized for too quickly extending KD’s minutes. Some are blaming Durant, who can be a free agent on June 30, for not protecting his own interests.

Attempting to set the record straight, Durant posted on Instagram shortly after coming out of surgery Wednesday.


Kerr explained the inclusive process that led to KD being cleared to play in Game 5, pointing out that the decision was reached in consultation with the team’s medical staff, Durant’s “second opinion” doctor, KD himself, and his business partner, Rich Kleiman,

“Kevin checked all the boxes, and he was cleared to play by everybody involved,” Kerr said.

The outside opinions are less about Durant than the aftermath. The scene in Toronto, with KD dropping to the floor clutching his lower right leg, was enough to spark outrage. And outrage needs an outlet and, eventually, a target.

Who and what could be more convenient than the employer?

“There are 24 hours in a day and there are a lot of different takes you can have on a situation like that,” Curry said. “In our cases, and as well as ‘K’ and knowing him as a person and behind the scenes, we all want to play basketball. If we have an opportunity to play or a chance to play, we want to play. That's just how it is as competitors, and especially at this stage.

“I trust our medical staff and know Bob Myers has our best interests in terms of not just what we can do in this series, but long term in our overall health. You see how hard he took it, talking to you guys after the game. And that's really genuine and authentic. So, you can waste time talking about the what-ifs and this and that. Injuries are tough and they suck. They're a part of our game, and they're going to continue to be a part of our game.”

[RELATED: How long KD's recovery from ruptured Achilles might take]

The outrage will pass, though probably not this week or this month. It’s going to take a while. Right now, though, venting helps. It can be therapeutic.

So don’t be too hard on Barkley and Perkins and those who currently share their opinion. They’re saying what they feel, not what they know.

Warriors' Rick Welts talks problematic path for Seattle to get NBA team

Warriors' Rick Welts talks problematic path for Seattle to get NBA team

The city of Seattle should have an NBA team.

Plain and simple.

The SuperSonics played in "The Emerald City" for 41 seasons from 1967 to 2008, but an ownership change resulted in the franchise moving to Oklahoma City.

Former Warriors superstar Kevin Durant played his rookie season for the SuperSonics. The next time the city hosted an NBA game was Oct. 5, 2018, when KD and the Warriors played the Kings in a preseason matchup at Key Arena.

It was an incredible night.

Will an NBA team call Seattle home within the next five years?

"I sure hope so. If there's one thing that I could wish for our league structurally, I think it would be to get a team back to Seattle," Warriors president Rick Welts told NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh on the "Habershow" podcast. "It's obviously a really personal issue for me. I know what that team meant to that city -- bringing the first professional championship to Seattle.

"It's an amazing market. A lot of the future of the world is being envisioned there. It's got a vibrant community that would really support an NBA team coming back."

Welts, a Seattle native, attended the University of Washington. He was a ballboy for the SuperSonics at one point, and he was their director of public relations when they won the NBA title in 1979.

He, more than anybody, knows the NBA belongs in Seattle.

"But the path is problematic," he said. "The good news is the NBA's business is really successful right now, and that means we have 30 teams operating without anyone feeling like they're in a market where they can't support NBA basketball.

"And the owners -- I would say probably to their credit -- have shown no interest. And the league hasn't really promoted any expansion agenda. So how do you get a team there? I don't think I'm going out on a limb to make the prediction that the next team -- the next new market in the NBA -- will be Seattle. But the path on how we get there is pretty murky right now."

Without expansion, a current franchise would need to relocate. The Kings nearly moved to Seattle in 2013 but will be staying in Sacramento permanently.

The Pelicans recently have been rumored to be a top candidate, but landing Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick last June might keep them in New Orleans.

It seems like Memphis (who moved from Vancouver in 2001) could emerge as the team to pack its bags.

Where would a hypothetical Seattle team play its home games?

"It's complicated. There are two parties involved in the construction of that arena that have to make the economics work, and neither one of them happens to be an NBA team," Welts explained. "There's a hockey team and there's a stadium construction company that are investing probably close to $1 billion to renovate the existing Key Arena into a new hockey facility.

"And the question becomes -- is there enough room there for an NBA team to enter that market and have the kind of economics that an NBA team would need, on top of the fair interests of the hockey team and the interest of the people who invested the money to build that stadium.

"Maybe is the answer. I think that's something that we haven't figured out yet because there hasn't really been a real opportunity to flush through what it would take."

Seattle's expansion hockey team will join the NHL for the 2021-22 season.

[RELATED: Why Warriors aren't thinking about draft now?]

We only can hope a professional basketball team joins the NBA shortly thereafter.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

How to keep Warriors' NBA lottery draft pick status in perspective

Illustration by Tara Funk

How to keep Warriors' NBA lottery draft pick status in perspective

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter using the hashtag #askkerith


The Warriors wrap up a road trip tonight in Utah. I saw a game notes gem. The player with the active streak for most consecutive games played is the Jazz' Joe Ingles, with 317.

The Warriors’ ironman was Klay Thompson, who set a franchise record with 214 consecutive games played. Before his ACL surgery, Klay had appeared in 615 of a possible 640 regular-season games. 

I miss Klay. We have something special planned with Klay in an upcoming broadcast. Stay tuned. 

Game On!

@MrHeavyMetaI Is it bad that fans hope the team loses so that they can have a top-three pick in the draft? #askKerith

I understand this reaction. I don’t think it’s “bad,” but it is predictable. Fans are disappointed by losses. So is the team! A top-three pick can hopefully get someone who can make an impact right away next season. 

I would caution that the Warriors still have months to play and yelling “tank!” at the players feels crummy. Every night they have to put on the uniform and do their jobs, and they sincerely want to do it the best they can. Players are not thinking about the draft right now. There’s too much pride and competitiveness. 

Fans can hold whatever feelings they want, but don’t expect the players to be in the same headspace. Especially in November. 

@Danny_G49 Assuming the Warriors pick high in the lottery next draft, which do you think is more likely? A) Select player B) Trade pick for vet. Thanks! 

@HiiiPowerRevo What do you think the Warriors should do with their top pick? Do they need a forward/wing or a center? Also is their indication that the warriors will really focus hard on building their bench for a next year championship push given how injuries are so frequent with the team.

I think they’ll select a player. A top pick means they get younger. That’s always important. 

The Warriors have homegrown veterans in Steph Curry, Klay, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney. My guess is the emphasis will be on finding the next young star who can rise alongside these vets while they’re in their primes to put a championship back in sight. 

However, I’m not sure what’s possible to predict. There’s so much of the season left, with too many unknowns. Are the Warriors open to trades? Will some of the players with long-term injuries need more time to heal? Less time? What do the Warriors have in mind for D’Angelo Russell? Will Looney’s neuropathy impact his season and beyond? Could Ky Bowman force his way into a deal? What free agents around the league are realistic for the Warriors this summer?

Let’s work backwards with some dates:

The 2020 NBA Draft is June 25th. 
The draft lottery is May 19th. 
The trade deadline is February 6th. 
All contracts are guaranteed after January 10th. 
10-day contracts can be signed starting January 5th. 

Today is Nov. 22. What I see, in this moment, is a depleted Warriors team playing eight or nine guys a night and the impact that’s having. There are some young players getting minutes they’d never ordinarily see. There are pluses and minuses to that. 

For the rookies, there’s a big difference between the demands of the college game and the NBA game. All of this takes a toll on the body and the mind. 

I want to say a prayer, cross my fingers, wish on every star and find a genie in a bottle to ask for no more injuries. 

The point is, what we think we know about situations now might not be the same come January, February or this summer.

@enchillada_3 Where is Alen smailagic???? Last I heard he rolled his ankle before pre season??

Via IG, @evenstrongerps4 Any update on Smiley’s injury? #askKerith

Based on the mailbag questions I get, no player is as intriguing as Alen Smailagic, the 19-year-old forward from Serbia. Fans got a glimpse of him in the G League last season, and his highlight-reel dunks in Summer League. 

The Warriors announced this week that Smailagic is cleared for on-court workouts as his rehab for a sprained ankle wraps up. He’s currently practicing in Santa Cruz, as is Looney. The Warriors will re-evaluate Jacob Evans’ left adductor strain in two weeks.

It’s exciting that Smailagic is moving better, but fans should be prepared for limited minutes from him this season outside of Santa Cruz, if any at all. He is young, raw and in the developmental stages of his NBA career. Even with the Warriors’ need for bodies, the team is going to be very careful with him. 

@rtaborn Why didn’t the Warriors try to sign Melo? 

The Blazers have been looking at Carmelo Anthony since 2017 when he was on his way out from the Knicks, and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum talked publicly about their desire to play with him. This season, the Blazers are thin with Jusef Nurkic and Zach Collins hurt, plus Pau Gasol announcing he’s done for the season so he can focus on rehabbing his foot injury. 

Adding Melo made sense. The Blazers could also pay Melo. The Warriors don’t have the money. 

I didn’t hear anyone around Golden State talking about Melo to begin with and he’s a better fit elsewhere. 

Via IG, @skiptomyvu Why isn’t Ron Adams on the bench anymore? 

Ron Adams is a beloved member of the Warriors' coaching staff. He remains an assistant coach and he works with players, but the way I understand it, Adams got to carve out his own role this season. 

The Warriors haven’t said much about what that means, but an assistant as respected as Ron -- with decades of coaching experience -- gets some freedom to do what he wants. 

Adams turned 72 this week. You might not see him on the bench or on road trips as much, but he’s putting his knowledge to good use for the Warriors. I see him often at Chase Center. He’s involved!

@RimRunninRagged Can you or @loganmmurdock update us on the Warriors practice playlist this season? Has it been updated to suit the musical tastes of new players on the team? Guessing no Janet Jackson or Tupac in the rotation …

Khalid Robinson, Special Assistant to Steve Kerr, is the man in charge of the practice playlists. He takes requests from all the players. A sample of the artists on the playlist are Nipsey Hussle, Ari Lennox, Future, Biggie and Da Baby. 

High Five

A big thank you to Jim Barnett for coming on the Runnin’ Plays podcast! That’s the new name for the pod Logan and I are doing together. 

Jim was requested by fans, and they were blunt about what they wanted to know: Does Jim feel pushed out from TV? Is he happy in his new role doing radio? 

Those answers, plus his incredible stories from his playing days when the schedule was ridiculous, the money was nothing and some of the all-time greatest players were his teammates can be heard on the pod. As you know, Jim was a baller in his own right. It was great to get to know him even better. 

Listen to the podcast by clicking here, or search “Runnin’ Plays” on Apple, Spotify or wherever you like to listen. 

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.