Steve Kerr reflects on Kevin Durant's injury, decision to let him play

Steve Kerr reflects on Kevin Durant's injury, decision to let him play

Game 5 of the NBA Finals was the ultimate emotional roller coaster.

With Kevin Durant returning from a calf injury to help the Warriors try to erase a three-games-to-one series deficit, the intensity surrounding the first matchup between a complete Warriors team and the Raptors was ratcheted up. 

Durant opened the game looking like the all-time great that he is, pouring in 11 points in 12 minutes.

Then, early in the second quarter, Durant tried to make a quick move around Serge Ibaka and immediately crumpled to the floor, having ruptured his Achilles tendon.

It was a devastating injury for the soon-to-be free agent. Durant put everything on the line to help the Warriors complete their quest for a three-peat, and it ultimately will cost him next season.

In a recent interview with Time Magazine, head coach Steve Kerr opened up on his immediate reaction to the injury, and the guilt he feels over the decision to play Durant coming off a strained calf.

"My initial thought was he re-injured the calf,” Kerr told Time. “That was our concern going in. I thought, oh God, poor guy, he re-injured the calf, he’s done for the series. He’s playing so well, we look like ourselves. So now he’s gotta do another six weeks of rehab. So there goes the rest of the series. But he’ll be fine."

When Kerr discovered the true extent of the injury at halftime, the mood changed.

“It’s like ‘oh, holy s--t,'” Kerr said. “This is a totally different deal. Something we hadn’t anticipated at all. Had we thought there was any chance his Achilles would be injured, we wouldn’t have thrown him out there. So a combination of devastation for him, and for our team, and dread for the way it all unfolded. It’s just one of those things. You gather all the information you can, you check all the boxes, and you try to make the best decision. And then you do, then this happens, like, my God. Ugh. So I feel partly responsible, even though our process was sound. And it’s a reminder that there are no guarantees in the medical world. You can never be sure of anything.”

While Kerr stands by how the Warriors came to the decision to let KD return, he wishes he could do it differently.

"Absolutely, even though I felt good about the process,” Kerr said. “Because it was a collaborative process. It included our team doctors, even outside doctors, second opinions. Everybody cleared him to play. And nobody thought that the Achilles was vulnerable. Obviously, we don’t make any decisions medically on our own. We’re not doctors. So we gathered all the information we could and collaboratively made that decision. But after the fact, it’s like, I should have just told him he’s not playing.”

“It’s too late,” says Kerr. “But I wish I could go back. I’d do that.”

According to Kerr, the scene in the Dubs' locker room at halftime was a solemn one.

“Every guy was going up and shaking his hand,” Kerr said “Just I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

While the Warriors rallied to win Game 5 in Toronto, they ultimately fell in Game 6 of The Finals and their quest for a three-peat was ended.

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A few days after Game 5, Durant announced he had surgery to repair the rupture in New York.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP will be a free agent this summer, and it's unlikely that his injury will cost him a shot at a max contract.

Still, Kerr and the Warriors would like to have the decision back.

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the waning moments of the Warriors' latest loss Friday night, their bench resembled the front row of a fashion show more than a functioning NBA roster.

Toward the end of the bench, All-Star guard Stephen Curry sat in a black suit jacket, covering a massive cast protecting his broken left hand. To Curry's left, center Kevon Looney sat in a gray suit, his immediate future in peril as he continues to seek answers about an injured hamstring.

That type of visual has become commonplace over the last month.

Over that stretch, 11 Warriors players have been sidelined with injuries, crippling a roster that seemed armed with an outside shot of making the playoffs on opening night just three weeks ago.

The latest blow came Saturday morning, when an MRI confirmed that D'Angelo Russell had suffered a sprained thumb, sidelining him for at least two weeks. Over his previous six games, the guard had averaged 29.7 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, including a 52-point, nine-rebound performance against Minnesota, so his absence will be felt.

That's because the Warriors are in roster transition, marked by their youthful core.

When Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall were drafted in June, the expectation was that the rookies would be brought along slowly, learning behind Golden State's battered All-Star cast. The myriad injuries changed that, though, forcing both into more minutes than initially anticipated.

While Paschall has flourished in that spot (15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game), Poole has struggled. Since Curry's injury in the fourth game of the season, Poole has shot 29 percent from the field, and he has hit just five of his last 28 shots over his last two contests.

The trickle-down effect started on the eve of training camp, when Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced that center Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage.

Last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. On Monday, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand.

Amid all those injuries, Warriors coach Steve Kerr trotted out his ninth starting lineup of the season Friday, with two-way guard Ky Bowman at the point. For a moment, it worked.

Midway through the third quarter, Bowman intercepted a pass, ran cross court and dunked over Grant Williams, cutting the Celtics' lead to three. Two minutes later, Alec Burk stripped Boston guard Brandon Wanamaker, setting up a fast-break layup that gave Golden State a brief 82-80 lead before the Celtics rallied and held on in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors' current reality is much different than their immediate past. After winning 78 percent of their games over five years, they now find themselves with a roster that lost Kevin Durant to free agency, while Curry and Klay Thompson's rehabs are expected to last until at least February. Their 2-11 record is the NBA's worst.

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Minutes after the final buzzer Friday, there were reminders of potential hopes lost. Curry's hand swelled out of his cast as he walked near a team official. In the locker room, Paschall sported an ice pack on his right hand, and Poole reconciled an ankle injury that he said wouldn't affect him.

As the Warriors packed for another road trip, potentially with just eight healthy bodies for the foreseeable future, another reminder that the team's development is coming at a hefty price was evident.

Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain


Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain

Add another one to the list.

After leaving Friday night’s loss to the Celtics with a thumb injury, an MRI has confirmed a right thumb sprain for All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.

Russell will not travel with the team on the upcoming four-game road trip and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Golden State’s already lengthy injury report adds another name, as the team now stands with just nine healthy players as the team embarks for New Orleans on Saturday to kick off the trip.