New York Knicks fans will have been excited to watch potential offseason signing Kevin Durant back in action on Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. That excitement, however, would have dissipated once Durant went down with a season-ending Achilles injury.
The Golden State Warriors forward started his first game of the NBA Finals on Monday night with his team down three games to one. Durant’s time on the court was brief after hopes that is lingering calf injury had abated were extinguished by a far greater injury.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins suffered the same Achilles injury and it kept him out for a full year. Although MRI scans will tell everyone the extent of the issue on Tuesday, the New York Knicks are expecting the worst.
New York faithful had high hopes that the Knicks would sign Durant, a free agent this summer, to an astronomical nine-figure contract. The 30-year-old, who makes $30 million this season, has a player option for 2019-20 and all appearances are he wants out of Golden State.
Regardless of how bad Durant’s Achilles injury is, the Knicks’ future has been altered. It is one of those cataclysmic events that change a sports franchise’s future for better or, most of the time, worse.
Durant’s injury may not see the Knicks walk away from signing him. It does, however, possibly raise concerns over the amount of money they are willing to pay a 30-plus-year-old forward coming off of a possible full 365-days on the shelf.
The Golden State forward is, for now, one of the five elite players in the NBA. Steph Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and (gasp) Russell Westbrook, are franchise altering players that can take an already good franchise to the next level.
Leonard’s play as a Toronto Raptor has made them the best team in the Eastern Conference. DeMar DeRozan could only do so much. Leonard’s play has carried the Raptors over the hump showcasing his remarkable talent. Like Durant, Leonard will be a free agent in the offseason. Could the Knicks possibly turn to the Raptors’ ace as their Messiah? Leonard has already proven he can lead a franchise to the top of the East.
According to NBA.com, Durant’s injury could force him to exercise his $31.5m option with the Golden State Warriors for next season. Depending on the severity of the injury, Durant could still appear and give him the chance to regain his playing fitness before a free agent move in 2020.
The problem with that is his age. Durant would be 32 by the time the 2020-21 NBA season tips off. Ploughing money into an ageing NBA veteran fresh off a moderate to severe Achilles injury isn’t the wisest move by a front office. Of course, this is the New York Knicks, a franchise that was continually run into the ground by Isaiah Thomas. The Knicks could still pay Durant big money in the offseason and let him recover from the injury under their watch.
New York has a big decision to make on Tuesday. Do they stay the course and try to sign Durant regardless of his injury or do they move on and find someone else to lead the franchise into the future? The Knicks’ future rests on this decision.