While Game 6 of the NBA Finals looms tonight in what will be the final Golden State Warriors game in Oracle Arena, the focus of the basketball world continues to be squarely on Kevin Durant’s Achilles that ruptured early in the second quarter of Game 5 and who bears the responsibility for the injury.
Real quick, let’s reset the story: Durant was initially hurt in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston. He missed the conference finals series with Portland, with the goal of being ready — at some point — to return during the finals. He made that return Monday night in Game 5 against Toronto, only to see Durant go down with what has since been diagnosed as a ruptured Achilles tendon.
So, who’s to blame for Durant’s injury? Could it be the ownership group? Because everyone knows that Joe Lacob and company have no regard for the health of the players.
Could the doctors be to blame? Because they surely went against their oath of “do no harm” and caved to the pressure of everyone to clear Durant to play — even if his body told him otherwise.
Oh, I know. It was the Bob Myers’ and Steve Kerr’s faults for not putting their foot down and sitting Durant, knowing he was in danger of further injury.
Should we blame Durant himself? After all, he must have insisted he was good to go and overruled everyone to take the court.
What kind of role in the blame game does the media and fans play? Seemingly the first question of every press conference was when would KD play again? And of course Golden State fans have been wringing their hands, pleading for Durant to return to save the day for the Warriors.
Maybe it’s the fault of Durant’s teammates? After all, reports started leaking that players on the team were confused by Durant’s absence.
If you haven’t figured it out, I write all this with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Because as far as I’m concerned, this is what happened: Durant and his management team, along with the Warriors’ top brass, all the doctors, coaches and anyone else whose opinion mattered, all got together and put everything on the table, weighed all the pros and cons and, as a team, decided if Durant was able to play. The consensus was, he could.
And then he got hurt, which happens in sports. If you want to blame anyone, blame karma, fate, the basketball gods. The reality is, Durant simply took a gamble — a very calculated gamble — and lost.
Such is life.
The other big “controversy” of the week was the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and their 13-0 destruction of an obviously overmatched Thailand squad in their first game of pool play in the Women’s World Cup in France.
The two main complaints were: at one point do you stop scoring? And, were the celebration of the American players over the top?
There are a ton of clichés and adages when it comes to sports and a common refrain to this type of situation is this: if you don’t want them to score, stop them. If not, the other team is free pour it on — or not. I know at the high school level, it’s not uncommon to see coaches tell their teams to take the foot off the pedal by mandating, for example, 10 passes before a shot, or to take the ball into the corner and try to burn as much time as possible. There is also the mass substitution of the starters for reserves and I’ve even seen scoreboard operators simply stop adding goals to the scoreboard once it reached 3- or 4-nothing.
But this is the World Cup, the highest attainable level for any soccer player — male or female. To ask any professional player to “take it easy” on an opponent is simply not an option.
From a tactical standpoint it makes sense as well. Unless Sweden, which is the second-best team in the Americans’ pool, agrees not to run up the score against Chile and Thailand, the United States has every right to score as many goals as possible because one of the tiebreakers in pool play is goal differential. What if the Americans stopped at five goals and the Swedes go on to beat Thailand 10-0? Suddenly, the U.S. is looking at a tougher road to defending their title.
And as far as celebrations go, I don’t begrudge any player celebrating a goal. In soccer, they are (usually) very hard to come by and to do it on the biggest stage and then ask them to “act like they’ve been there before” (another common sports saw) is not fair to the players who have worked a lifetime for just such a moment.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117.