The basketball world got a jarring shot of reality Monday night when Kevin Durant came back early from a calf injury in an attempt to keep the Golden State Warriors alive in the NBA Finals.
Durant, with his team down three games to one against the Toronto Raptures, made an immediate impact as he scored 11 quick points and got the Warriors out to an early lead.
Then Durant went down with a torn Achilles, proving that he was not ready for the rigors of a NBA playoff game. Golden State held on to extend the series but the story of the night was Durant.
I found the hypocrisy of the media quite comical. Those who called Durant soft for not being on the floor in the Finals changed course immediately and voiced opinions that he should never have been out on the court. And those who called him a coward for not playing changed their tune and are now calling him a warrior (pun intended).
Repercussions are aplenty. On the court, Golden State now has to win two more games, without Durant, to win the title. Off the court, what will Durant do now?
It was expected that the pending free agent was going to leave the Warriors and join another franchise, one that he could call “his team”. But now that Durant will miss the 2019-20 season with this injury, will teams come calling? Or will he now choose to stay and collect the $31.5 million Golden State will own him next season if he stays.
The repercussions are also being felt in New York (Knicks), Brooklyn (Nets) and in Los Angeles (Clippers). All three franchises were ready to make their final pitch to sign Durant long term. What do they do now? Do they pay him over $200+million for five years, which is the going rate, knowing he cannot play next season? Or do they move on?
Meanwhile, Game Six is tonight at Golden State. I almost forgot with all this free agent talk. I have to believe Toronto will find a way to win one of these last two games. The Raptures have already won two games on the Warriors’ court and Golden State just does not have enough offense with Durant and his 30 points a game watching from the sidelines.
US Open Talk
The US Open returns to Pebble Beach for the 119th U.S. Open Championship this week. Here are some of my favorites to capture America’s Open.
Tiger Woods has to be one of the favorites. He won an Open here by an amazing 15 shots in 2000. And he is coming off a victory at a major, The Masters, in April.
Brooks Koepka could make history on Sunday if he wins. Koepka, the betting favorite, has won the last two US Opens. He has also won three of the last five majors and finished second in another. No one has won three straight US Opens since 1905 when a guy named Willie Anderson did the feat.
Rory McIlroy has never won a US Open but he is coming off a seven-stroke win last week at the Canadian Open. He has to be considered a favorite to move south and win another nation’s Open.
My dark horse is Jordan Spieth. It is hard to believe that the youngest player to be Player of the Year has not won in two years now. Spieth has three majors in total including the 2017 US Open. He appears to be trending positively now as he has three consecutive Top 10 finishes.
My choice to win though is Dustin Johnson. He has won twice on this course and is coming off second place finishes at the previous two majors this year, the Masters and the PGA. He has one US Open win on his resume and five Top 10 finishes at the US Open.