B6B: Playing the Blame Game is Futility at Its Worst

By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – June 12, 2019)


Once it was revealed on Wednesday afternoon that Kevin Durant had already undergone surgery to repair a ruptured right Achilles tendon, we officially learned what we unofficially already felt was the case. Interestingly, the Golden State Warriors had stated there were no updates on KD five minutes before his Instagram post that announced the procedure and confirmed the seriousness of the injury.

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What’s good everybody I wanted to update you all: I did rupture my Achilles. Surgery was today and it was a success, EASY MONEY My road back starts now! I got my family and my loved ones by my side and we truly appreciate all the messages and support people have sent our way. Like I said Monday, I'm hurting deeply, but I'm OK. Basketball is my biggest love and I wanted to be out there that night because that’s what I do. I wanted to help my teammates on our quest for the three peat. Its just the way things go in this game and I'm proud that I gave it all I physically could, and I'm proud my brothers got the W. It's going to be a journey but I'm built for this. I’m a hooper I know my brothers can get this Game 6, and I will be cheering  with dub nation while they do it.

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Immediately after Durant attempted to make his move with the ball early in the second quarter of Monday evening’s crucial Game 5 in Toronto, his season(s) came to an end, and within seconds, everyone began the process of assigning blame, rather than stopping to consider the possibility that, as much as we hate it, maybe no one should be on the other end of a plethora of pointed fingers. That’s not to say someone wasn’t partially at fault, but one of the more intriguing expert opinions came from David Chao, who was an NFL team doctor for 17 years and whose Twitter account (@ProFootballDoc) has helped interpret injuries in real-time. Here’s what he wrote for the San Diego Union Tribune on Tuesday concerning Durant and whether the two issues were related, PLUS the blame game.

No one from the outside (including me) can know for sure, but the evidence strongly points to the original injury and the new one to be related.

On a simplistic level, if your car breaks down and you take it to the mechanic to have the carburetor fixed, and then on your first big road trip your car has trouble again, the chances are good that it is related to the original issue.

It was 33 days ago that Durant was said by the team to have a calf strain. My suspicion all along was Achilles injury, although it didn’t seem to be full tear. This was based on video analysis and subsequent images of Durant icing his leg down low in the region of the Achilles.

Please note that I am in no way being critical of the Warriors or their medical staff. “Calf” is not technically wrong, as they did not say calf muscle and the Achilles can be considered part of the calf/lower leg area. The team doctors do not give the verbiage to reporters; the team makes that call. For example, we see NFL teams all the time say shoulder when they mean season-ending pec tear. Again, to be clear, I am not saying the doctors misdiagnosed a potential Achilles as a calf. The likelihood is they knew exactly what was going on but that doesn’t get translated to the public.

The first time Durant made an explosive move Monday, he had a classic Achilles injury. People in their 40s and 50s tear their Achilles because the tendon is weak. Professional athletes tear their Achilles because their gastrocnemius (calf) muscle is strong and contracts too quickly for the tendon to lengthen, and it tears.

The violent muscle contraction and “ripple” is evidence the muscle overpowered the tendon. It is like in a game of tug-of-war — if the rope breaks or the other side let’s go, the “winning side” falls down backwards in a heap. In this way, Durant had to have a strong calf muscle to tear his Achilles which speaks against a calf muscle strain.

The theory here (not fact) is that Durant had some partial injury to his Achilles that the Warriors knew about and treated appropriately with over a month’s rest and made a calculated risk/reward decision that didn’t work out.

What Chao’s comments here illuminate is just how little we know about these things, despite how we act in the seconds following an incident. Everyone wants to sound smart on social media or within their sphere of influence, but those making the actual decisions and diagnoses do indeed keep information private and often don’t tell us the extent or degree of certain scenarios, recovery times, and rehabilitation processes.

But, was it the Golden State Warriors fault, was it the team doctors, was it Bob Myers, was it frustrated teammates and coaches that placed pressure on Durant to return, was it the media questioning his toughness, or was it KD’s own ego that can’t handle criticism and desperately wants to be liked, often contributing to the opposite effect as he tries too hard and the weight crumbles underneath him?

The answer simply isn’t cut and dry and it’s not one that I’m qualified to make, but what makes it such a juicy story is that there are plausible reasons why every one of those questions could come equipped with a “YES” answer and explanation. One problem, however, was created by the Warriors initially when they understated Durant’s “calf strain” or continually left it up in the air and made it seem like he was on the road to recovery. This wasn’t true, and what it led to was all the speculation as to whether the seven-footer actually wanted to come back, was trying to get back, or whether he was looking to his post-Warriors playing future in New York.

Had Golden State been more up front about just how bad and nagging the condition was, perhaps reporters and those who opine for a living (pointing at myself here) wouldn’t have had the easy conclusion to jump to as to Durant’s heart. I never went down that road, but some did, and unquestionably, that could have contributed to Kevin trying a little too hard to prove the naysayers wrong, because of his desperation to be popular and not viewed as a villain, much less lazy.

When GM Bob Myers sobbed as he talked of the Achilles injury on Monday night and said if people needed someone to blame, blame him, I couldn’t help but think the tears came because somewhere inside, he blamed himself. Steve Kerr said on Wednesday afternoon that had they known this could happen, KD never would have played in Game 5, but they didn’t. While a calf and Achilles aren’t the same injury, it’s without doubt the overcompensation alone on a wounded wheel could lead to something far more catastrophic, which unfortunately is exactly what happened.

Durant will miss most, if not all of next season, and now has decisions to make regarding his own future as it relates to picking up his 31.5 million dollar player option, staying in Golden State, and becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020. As he goes through the rehab process, arduous as it is, he will look to return to form, even if history is against him as to ever being the KD he was prior to the rupture.

But, as he goes through his rehab process, I’m calling on all of us in the media and the public at large to go through our own rehab process, where we stop looking for someone to blame or singling out a factor amongst many. It’s possible someone lied here, it’s possible there was something below board, but nothing Durant or those in his inner circle have intimated would cast aspersions toward the organization. And, with several teams still committed to offering him a max contract this offseason, he could create more of a stir than he is. Instead, he seems to be backing Golden State as a franchise, from top to bottom.

There’s always some level of strategy to every public comment from a well-known figure, but I’m not seeing an immediate agenda that could benefit from being untruthful. So, I take Durant at his lack of words to say he doesn’t believe he was wronged by the team and he doesn’t believe he was led astray. That’s great news for Warriors fans, because if he DID think or if someone DID convince him it was the Warriors medical staff, he’d be gone with a quickness.

Instead, we wait to see whether he leaves or not. If he does, that tells me he was always planning to go (as I’ve long thought), because the franchise and the city and the NBA are all rallying around him in a tangible, palpable way. He has the opportunity to reverse the public perception of him from the hero in OKC to the less-than-hero in GS to the sympathetic figure who tried to save a Championship and risked his own health in the process. How he handles his next move is going to be fascinating.

But, as for the armchair doctors and the media attempting to place blame, it’s futile. I listen to Charles Barkley when he speaks, and he went full-throttle against the Warriors, blaming them. Other players have done the same. I take what they say seriously, because they’ve been where KD was and they know things I don’t. Again, that pesky wisdom argument rears its ugly head. They’re emotional about the situation.

As for media and fans, emotion shouldn’t trump patience and levelheadedness, and although it always WILL, hopefully a few of us can learn to be a little more tortoise than hare in our analyses, knowing who wins that race in the end.

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