It seems crass to think of anything but the long-term well-being of Kevin Durant after he suffered an Achilles injury Monday night after rushing himself back to game action with the goal of keeping the Golden State Warriors’ season alive. Alas, here’s the sobering reality: The NBA offseason just got dealt a curveball that could radically alter how this summer’s game of high-stakes musical chairs plays out.
If Durant tore his Achilles during Monday’s game, it would seemingly put his entire 2019-20 season in jeopardy. Golden State general manager Bob Myers fought back tears during an impromptu postgame press conference in which he noted that Durant would undergo an MRI on Tuesday to determine the severity of his Achilles injury.
Even with the prospects of missing extended time, Durant might still have a bevy of deep-pocketed suitors eager to sign him to a long-term deal. But he’d also have to give great consideration to simply opting into the final year of his current pact, one that’s scheduled to pay him $31.5 million next season, forcing the Warriors to foot the bill of his recovery after he sacrificed himself for the team.
Here’s the impact for Boston: If Durant and Kyrie Irving were truly intrigued by the potential of pairing up this summer, Durant’s injury could force an audible. Is Irving as eager to take his talents to New York — whether it’s the Knicks or Nets — if Durant can’t play next season? Might Irving be more inclined now to sign, say, a short-term 1-and-1 deal in Boston and then both he and Durant could reevaluate their respective futures after the 2019-20 season?
It’s always felt like Durant’s decision would have a domino effect among star players this summer. Maybe it still will, but there’s a lot more for players to ponder.
All of which adds a bit more intrigue to what happens with Anthony Davis in the ramp-up to next week’s NBA Draft. If Durant’s injury gives Irving even more reason to consider staying in Boston, then the Celtics going all-in to acquire Davis could ensure Irving stays here.
That would leave an awful lot riding on the 2019-20 season for the Celtics, who could potentially be trying to sell both Irving and Davis on a long-term future here with the potential that both could bolt if things went awry. That said, it’s probably a dice roll that Danny Ainge is willing to make.
Remember, not only would the Warriors be diminished by Durant’s absence but the East wouldn’t be as daunting as it might have been if Durant formed a super team in the conference.
Ainge’s words from his press conference last week reverberate loudly in the aftermath of Durant’s injury.
"There's always risk in making deals,” said Ainge. "We’re not afraid of risk.”
Maybe Durant’s injury emboldens Ainge even more. Maybe Durant’s injury alters Davis’ wish list of teams, which hasn’t included Boston since the start of his trade request. (Quick tangent: Davis not having the Celtics on his wishlist might actually give Boston a bit of leverage as they try to retain as much talent as possible in any negotiations as Ainge can cling hard to the flight risk potential if Pelicans new GM David Griffin is trying to pry more assets).
The summer of 2019 won’t lack for intrigue and Durant’s injury might have just shuffled the deck before any of the the craziness even started.
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