Nevius: Warriors must reward Kevin Durant for his sacrifice
Kevin Durant put his faith in the Warriors.
Now the Warriors need to put their faith in him.
Durant (and apparently coach Steve Kerr) were told that the worst that could happen if KD played in Game 5 was “a tweak.”
They were wrong.
Durant’s Achilles injury has us questioning everything. There has been a tsunami of second guessing about the medical team and the Warriors management allowing Durant to play, even if it was a critical game in the NBA Finals.
And yes, they got it wrong. But let’s don’t pretend that by looking at an image of someone’s tendon, doctors are able to predict the future. It was a risk they thought was worth taking.
And, we should add, it was a risk that had the support of Durant, who reportedly lobbied hard to get back on the court.
Which is one of several revelations to come out of this rotten development. We finally cleared up a few things about Durant.
First, haters, he was hurt. So you can drop your Twitter-verse conspiracy theories about how he was holding himself out for selfish reasons. Or, in one wild, thin-air supposition, that he was trying to somehow sabotage the Warriors.
Second, not only was he hurt, he played hurt. Any time you hear a player say “the pain is manageable,” you can assume it hurts like hell. Durant knew what he was doing. He could have sat out. Instead, he ended up taking one for the team. Noble.
In addition, before he was hurt, he hit three of those net-didn’t-even-ripple threes with a nonchalance that made it look like he could do it all night long. In the 11 minutes he played, he reminded you that he is a transcendent player.
Finally, the reaction in the Warriors’ family made it clear Durant is not the aloof outlier that’s been suggested. After the game the players consistently steered questions back to sympathy for their teammate. Durant must be touched.
GM Bob Myers has been mocked for puddling up in his press conference, when he announced the injury. There’s even a tin hat brigade suggesting Myers might be faking.
Sure, that makes perfect sense. Heading up to the microphone, Myers thinks to himself: “I know, I’ll pretend to cry. People love that.”
Myers and the rest of the Warriors were crushed. And the emotion of this season - a ragged, hold-onto-the-rope-for-one-last-time run - has everyone a feeling a little raw. This kind of catastrophe must seem almost Biblical.
So what now?
It has been suggested that the Warriors and Durant could agree on a one-year, $31.5 million player option to stay with the team.
I don’t get that. You’re basically paying him for a year in which you may never see him on the court.
And, at the end of that year he becomes a free agent. There will be encouraging workout videos and talk of how Durant looks great in the gym. Interest from other teams would spike. There would be competition.
And I don’t think that’s misplaced. Everyone heals in their own way and at their own pace, but if anybody can come back from this, Durant can.
For instance, I’ve heard some talking heads say that the injury might decrease his “lift.”
Guys, he’s seven feet tall. Lift is the least of his problems.
He is currently an elite catch and shoot three-point weapon. That’s unlikely to change, even if he isn’t as mobile.
The real tests will be cutting on drives to the basket and covering defensively. How will he do? We will just have to see.
The point is if you sign him for $31 million, in one year he will be back in play. Do you believe he’s worth a multi-year contract with big bucks? Supposedly, other teams have already said he is.
And that’s why I think the Warriors should go all-in on Durant - offering him the five-year, super max contract of $220 million. They were going to make that offer before he got hurt, and I’d say go ahead and crank it up anyhow.
For starters, you’d have Durant signed up as part of the future of the new arena. You’d be telling fans you were serious. And you would give ever-sensitive Durant a huge vote of confidence.
Now, there are problems with that idea. For starters, you are obviously going to re-sign free agent Klay Thompson. That dagger three at the end of Game 5 is now part of his legacy. Thompson will be expensive, but you’ve gotta sign him.
But that leaves crumbs in the cashbox for those second tier players that every championship team needs. Typically you’d get help from the draft, but when you are on a five-year run of awesome, you end up picking at the very bottom of the list.
So you have to hope to find a DeMarcus Cousins, a guy who is willing to take the minimum to play on a winner and showcase himself. Or hope you find an undrafted diamond in the rough. But there is a reason why diamonds are valuable. They’re rare.