Warriors keep season alive but can only think of Kevin Durant injury

Warriors keep season alive but can only think of Kevin Durant injury

TORONTO — Kevin Durant was giddy in the hours before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, feeling no pain in his right calf and dancing among his teammates in the hallway. After 32 days locked away with doctors and trainers while outsiders questioned his heart, he was eager to return to his sanctuary.

Once Monday night’s game started, the Warriors star was beautiful. His shots were falling, he was keeping pace, if not setting it, and providing so much of what the Warriors had been missing while stumbling into an abyss, one loss away from being ousted by the Toronto Raptors in The Finals.

Durant lasted three seconds shy of 12 minutes of court time before it all came apart. Holding the ball, he made a hard cut, shifted his weight onto his right foot and, bam, in an instant he was limping away in pain, dropping to the floor while clutching his lower right leg.

Though the Warriors held on for the victory, 106-105 over the Raptors, the visitors' locker room at Scotiabank Arena was less a scene of satisfaction than a crucible of anger and sorrow.

There were tears, according to those in the room, and eventually those of despondent general manager Bob Myers came spilling out in public. Durant’s injury, according to Myers, is to his right Achilles tendon. Though the extent of the damage will not be determined until KD undergoes an MRI test Tuesday afternoon, he left the building on crutches, his right leg in a protective boot.

“Prior to coming back, he went through four weeks with a medical team, and it was thorough, and it was experts and multiple MRIs and multiple doctors, and we felt good about the process,” Myers said, his voice cracking. “He was cleared to play tonight — that was a collaborative decision. I don't believe there's anybody to blame, but I understand in this world, and if you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.”

Myers was falling on an invisible sword. By all accounts, Durant had undergone numerous tests, with input from an assortment of medical experts before being cleared. During his time on the court, he looked as if he’d never been away.

“Ain’t no way you can say he came back too fast,” Andre Iguodala told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Did you see what he was doing?”

KD scored 11 points, and he buried all three of the 3-pointers he took and both free throws. His plus-6 was the highest of any Warrior. The man whose will to play was questioned by some was putting his signature on a game that meant so much to his team.

“And to tell you something about Kevin Durant,” Myers said. “Kevin Durant loves to play basketball, and the people that questioned whether he wanted to get back to this team were wrong.”

Durant took to his Instagram story to express his frustration as well as his pride in how his teammates responded.

The Warriors, somehow, some way, dug in and rode a combination of moxie and 3-point shots to beat back Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors.

Never, though, have I seen so many somber faces in the wake of such a stirring and significant victory.

“We had gotten our brother back,” Shaun Livingston told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Yeah, we got big bro back. Before, it was like, ‘Wait until he comes back.’ Then ... get hit with a gut punch.”

After being helped to his feet, Durant took a few steps before being assisted off the floor and into the locker room by Dr. Rick Celebrini and Iguodala. The Warriors were leading 39-34, with 9:46 remaining in the second quarter.

Some fans inside the arena cheered Durant’s injury -- something that left several Warriors seething -- before several member of the Raptors, including KD’s former Oklahoma City teammate Serge Ibaka, signaled for quiet. The sense of loss, to Durant and to the competition in this game, was palpable.

“Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships and the greatness that you see on the floor,” Stephen Curry said. “But life is more important in terms of caring about an individual and what they're going through on a daily basis.

“And you see the commitment and the challenges and just what's been thrown at KD this whole year, really. And he gave us what he had, he went out there and sacrificed his body, and we know how it turned out.”

[RELATED: Draymond would miss Game 7 if given Game 6 technical foul]

This was Durant’s night to begin his rescue of the Warriors. Amid all the noise around his future, and where he might or might not play, and the doubts about his commitment to the Warriors, Durant showed up to play. He wanted to be out there, looked as if he belonged.

“If you respect the game and you treat the game the right way, it’s supposed to reward you,” Livingston said. “It didn’t reward him tonight.”

Warriors' Steph Curry might wear Mavericks uniform as virtual fan

Warriors' Steph Curry might wear Mavericks uniform as virtual fan

Steph Curry is not physically in Orlando for the restart to the 2019-20 NBA season.

But the Warriors superstar could be making a virtual appearance in the bubble when the Dallas Mavericks take the court in the playoffs.

"When they get to the first round, I might be in there and wear my Dallas uniform and make everybody go crazy," Steph recently told CNBC's Jabari Young.

Why would the two-time NBA MVP do this? The answer is simple: His brother, Seth, plays for the Mavs.

The hope is that Seth is in uniform if and when this happens, as he missed Dallas' last two games because of right leg soreness.

Seth is having a terrific season, averaging 12.5 points and 2.0 assists, while shooting just under 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from beyond the arc.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Mavs practically are locked into the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, and most likely will face the LA Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs.

As for Steph, there's an outside chance he can watch his little brother take the court in person -- not through virtual technology -- later this month.

[RELATED: Why Draymond is 'strongly against' a second NBA bubble]

The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Friday morning that the NBA is exploring the possibility for the Warriors (and the other seven teams not in Orlando) to join the bubble so they can hold organized team workouts/practices.

If this happens, you gotta assume Steph and former Warriors forward Andre Iguodala will be hitting the golf course together.

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NBA ahead of its peers by taking action for social, racial justice

NBA ahead of its peers by taking action for social, racial justice

Programming note: Watch "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Friday, Aug. 7 on NBC Sports Bay Area after "Giants Postgame Live."

And on the seventh day, the NBA confirmed its commitment by digging into its deep pockets.

While MLB and the NFL each use one hand to support racial equality and the other as a hollow shield against the raging coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is using both hands to show how it’s done.

The left hand is deflecting COVID-19 so well the league has announced zero positive tests, and the right simultaneously is focused on making America fairer to all.

The NBA Board of Governors announced Wednesday, the seventh day of its restart, that, in alliance with the National Basketball Players Association, it is launching the NBA Foundation for the explicit purpose of empowering the Black community. Furthermore, the league is committing $300 million in initial funding -- $30 million for each of the next 10 years.

In this time of global awakening, with scores of major corporations hanging signs and issuing statements, often utilizing the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” the NBA is taking action.

This level of support is a requirement for real progress and draws strong approval from those long committed to the cause, such as Ebro Darden, global editorial director of hip-hop and R&B for Apple Music and a panelist on “Race in America: A Candid Conversation” on Friday night on NBC Sports Bay Area.

"Is your corporation that you work for actively working to find ways to connect with communities that are underrepresented at your corporation, so that you can train, engage with, and hire individuals from that community, and specifically the black community?” said Darden, who also hosts “Ebro In The Morning” on WQHT-FM in New York. “I know at Apple, that's the conversation we're having all the time. And it goes all the way up to the top leaders, who are a part of the conversation, not only creating internal executions but creating external execution.”

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

It’s one thing for a corporation to push out a BLM hashtag, quite another for them to pledge shifting profits toward inclusion and racial justice. There is, after all, quite a difference between brand activism and meaningful action, between the message a company promotes and its day-to-day internal practices.

A little more than a week after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was photographed kneeling alongside employees at one branch of the giant bank. That same bank has a history of executives making racist comments -- and was accused last week by a Black former financial adviser, Ricardo Peters, who claims he routinely experienced racial discrimination at the company.

Though Nike, for example, was prescient in its decision to fully support the peaceful protest of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, using ads and billboards to further raise his profile, an examination of public records in 2019 revealed the company has more than 300 vice presidents around the world -- and less than 10 percent were Black.

The company in June issued a statement vowing to do better, announcing it would direct $40 million over the next four years toward the Black community while also promising to “continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers.”

That’s the long-term goal. It’s admirable.

Is there any reason why companies riding the current wave of supportive platitudes should be trusted?

“I wouldn’t say ‘trust’ is a word you probably want to use,” Darden said. “I would say the word is probably ‘accountability.’ Can we hold them accountable to those words? What actions, as individuals, whether we work at NBC or whether we work at Apple or whatever corporations we work for, can we expect? And if you work for these corporations that had something to say, what actions can you take on, internally, to hold these corporations accountable to their words?"

“It starts with onboarding,” he continued. “Are our people who are Black being onboarded into corporations and being given a career growth path so that they can become the next executives at this corporation? Are they being given those opportunities?”

They are, for the most part, in the NBA. Moreover, the NBA Foundation is designed to stimulate the economies of underserved areas and create opportunities for those within it. In short, financially support businesses designed to bring racial balance to the job market.

That the NBA consulted with the NBPA indicates that the ownership levels of all 30 teams were willing to listen and then respond.

[RELATED: NBA welcomes Breonna Taylor as new teammate during restart]

With Michael Jordan as the only Black governor (formerly owner) in the NBA, it’s apparent the league has miles to go regarding diversity at the top. With increasingly outspoken superstars expressing a desire to join that select group -- and teams recently creating positions designed to generate diversity -- it’s on the horizon.

The NBA doesn’t always get it right. But its management of COVID-19 within the bubble -- thus far -- and its response in the executive offices are light years ahead of its major-sports competitors.