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Warriors’ Kevin Durant has surgery on torn Achilles; Kerr explains playing him

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 6/13/2019 By Connor Letourneau

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Two days after Kevin Durant suffered a torn right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr detailed the rationale that went in to clearing Durant.

About 15 minutes later, a picture of the consequences emerged: Durant, in a hospital bed in New York, confirming in an Instagram post that his surgery was a success.

“I’m hurting deeply, but I’m OK,” Durant wrote.

The devastation hit all across the Warriors’ organization, but no one saw this coming, Kerr said, as he explained to reporters in Oakland on Wednesday what preceded the decision to play the 10-time All-Star:

On Sunday, Durant practiced for the first time in more than a month without any issues. He was told by team doctors, and an outside doctor he enlisted, that the worst that could happen if he played Monday was aggravating his right calf strain, Kerr said.

At no point during those discussions was the possibility of an Achilles injury mentioned, he said. With the information available, team doctors, Kerr, general manager Bob Myers, the outside doctor, Durant and Durant’s business partner, Rich Kleiman, agreed that Durant should be cleared.

“Would we go back and do it over again? Damn right. But that’s easy to say after the results,” Kerr said. “... Once Kevin was cleared to play, he was comfortable with that. We were comfortable with that. So, the Achilles came as a complete shock. I don’t know what else to add to that, other than had we known that this was a possibility, that this was even in the realm of possibility, there’s no way we ever would have allowed Kevin to come back.

“So, it’s devastating, mostly for Kevin, obviously. But I feel horribly for (Warriors director of sports medicine and performance) Rick Celebrini as well, who is one of the best people I’ve ever been around and one of the smartest, brightest minds that I’ve ever been around. He’s devastated. Bob, the team, we all are.”

Whether the doctors working with Durant should have considered the possibility of an Achilles injury remains up for debate. Dr. Kenneth Jung, a foot and ankle surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, told The Chronicle on Tuesday that Durant was at a “higher risk of either aggravating (the calf injury) or suffering an Achilles injury.”

Jung, who hasn’t worked with the Warriors on Durant’s case, also said that these choices aren’t an exact science and that Golden State was “just trying to figure out which decision was best under the circumstances.”

After getting injured in Monday’s Game 5 win over the Raptors, Durant flew to New York City, where he had an MRI exam Tuesday that confirmed the ruptured Achilles tendon. His surgery was performed Wednesday morning by Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

O’Malley, the Brooklyn Nets’ team physician, operated on Durant’s foot when Durant suffered a Jones fracture in 2015.

In his Instagram post, Durant wrote, “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. ... 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.”

Most rehabs from a torn Achilles tendon take nine to 12 months, which puts Durant at risk of missing all of next season. Durant, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent in three weeks, still should command a maximum contract, multiple league sources told The Chronicle.

Monday’s injury might have upped the Warriors’ chances of bringing back Durant, who sources throughout the NBA initially believed intended to sign elsewhere this summer. Picking up his $31.5 million player option for next season would allow Durant to focus on his rehab, keep the stress low and prepare for unrestricted free agency in summer 2020.

There are no guarantees that Durant will return to his pre-injury form when he comes back to the court. Players who tear an Achilles tendon are more likely to not play another NBA game than to be as productive as they were before getting hurt, according to multiple studies.

The Warriors — down 3-2 to the Raptors — must win Games 6 (Thursday) and 7 (Sunday) without Durant. Thursday will mark the last game at Oracle Arena, Golden State’s home for 47 seasons.

“I expect us to obviously come out and play as hard as we can,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “We’re not even thinking about the future. We’re just thinking about enjoying this last show at Oracle we’re about to give our fans.”

Durant, a back-to-back NBA Finals MVP, averaged a career-high 32.3 points through 12 postseason games.

Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Con_Chron

Related slideshow: The 2019 NBA Finals (Provided by imagn)


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