No matter who you root for or where your interests lie, if you're an NBA fan, you feel terribly for Kevin Durant today.
The two-time Finals MVP suffered an Achillies injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday and ESPN reported that Golden State fears Durant's Achillies is torn.
Durant returned to the court for Monday's elimination game after missing nearly five weeks with a calf injury. He scored 11 points in his first 12 minutes on the floor, but went down early in the second quarter after an attempted drive, grabbing his calf. The 30-year-old suffered an injury that, depending on the severity, could have wide-ranging implications for the Knicks, Nets and the rest of the league.
Durant and Kawhi Leonard are two of the top free agents on the market this summer, and the Knicks had significant interest in both players.
If Durant has suffered a serious injury, it would be surprising if New York still pursued him in free agency -- unless they could sign him to a contract that was heavily protected for injury. The most likely course of action for Durant would be to exercise his $31.5 million option for next season while he recovers from the injury.
That would obviously take Durant off the board for New York and drastically change the club's approach this summer.
The Knicks wanted to land two stars in July and the possibility of playing alongside Durant was always going to be a big draw in their pursuit of that goal.
New York had enough cap space to sign two max free agents, so it could afford to bring a player like Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker in with Durant. The club also had the space to trade for Anthony Davis and sign Durant.
If Durant has indeed suffered a torn Achilles, it seems unlikely that those options are on the table.
That scenario would leave Leonard and Davis as the top options for New York. But if Durant picks up his player option, the Knicks will have significant competition for both players since several teams -- including the Nets, Lakers and Clippers -- will have the room/assets to sign/trade for either star. Nonetheless, the Knicks will be aggressive in pursuing Leonard, who is one win away from delivering a title to the Raptors.
But if the Knicks don't sign Leonard and Durant is no longer an option, you wonder if it still makes sense to pursue Davis in a trade.
Prior to Durant's injury, the Knicks had talked to the Pelicans about a potential Davis trade, SNY sources confirm.
The Pelicans, according to an ESPN report, weren't enamored by any offer the Knicks or any other suitors had made for Davis. So the Knicks had engaged in some dialogue with teams in an effort to improve their offer for Davis, per SNY sources. It's unclear how far along -- if at all -- any of that dialogue was, but some people in the organization were uncomfortable with the idea of trading away significant assets for Davis, citing the way things played out for New York in the wake of the Carmelo Anthony trade, per SNY sources.
If Durant and Leonard are not options for the Knicks this summer, it seems like the best path forward is to add an elite prospect with the No. 3 pick and continue to look for ways to acquire young, undervalued players while maintaining cap flexibility.
That's largely the path they've taken since GM Scott Perry was hired.
Also, depending on where he is traded, Davis may test free agency next summer. So while there is a risk in not trading for him, the Knicks may still have a chance to add Davis in the summer of 2020 without surrendering assets for him.
In the immediate wake of Durant's injury on Tuesday morning, the Knicks were said to be looking at every possible option available to them.
No matter how things play out, it's hard not see Monday's development as a glancing blow for a Knicks team that had shed salary in a Kristaps Porzingis trade and waived and stretched Joakim Noah with an eye on getting top free agent(s) this summer.
And the optimism surrounding Durant seemed warranted. Who knows if he actually would have signed here, but people around Durant told friends midway through the year that they strongly expected him to sign with the Knicks. Durant's former teammates and current teammates all said similar things. But Monday's injury eroded any certainty surrounding Durant's situation.
As for the Nets, teams pursuing Kyrie Irving said last week that they thought the point guard was most likely to end up in Brooklyn. Part of the Nets' plan was to pursue Durant along with Irving. If Durant is unavailable, it will be interesting to see if the Nets turn to another option as a second star alongside Irving or seek to pair him with restricted free agent D'Angelo Russell.