After Kevin Durant suffered a torn right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, there were plenty of questions about how the former MVP's injury was handled. The Golden State Warriors said that they felt he was healthy enough to take the floor despite having missed much of the postseason due to injury. Durant later said he had no issue with how the Warriors handled the situation.
But at Friday's media day, Durant's new Nets teammate, Kyrie Irving, gave a different viewpoint on things.
"Naturally, I think you have to go inside the mind of a competitor and realize that a lot of people have responsibilities for why that ended up happening the way it happened on a national scale," Irving said. "We all know K wasn't ready to play in that environment. We all know that, whether people want to admit it or not. He was out 31 days and we put him on a national stage in the Finals to end up selling a product that came before the person, Kevin."
Irving spoke at length Friday about several topics, one of which was being protective of Durant during his rehab process.
"I'm here to protect that," Irving said. "I'm going to be the protector of that all throughout the year and not allow anyone to infiltrate the circle of 'Hey K. Do you. Get right. We'll be fine.'"
Durant was asked on Friday about Irving's thoughts regarding his Achilles injury. The two-time Finals MVP said he appreciated everyone's concern for him at the time of the injury, but the decision to play was his alone.
"When I went down, I felt like everybody wanted to put their arms and protection around me from people I didn't know to my best friend in Kyrie," Durant said. "I felt like everybody was real protective of me, and I feel like it will continue to be that way…. But I make my own decisions."
To see this as some sort of disagreement between Durant and Irving here is overstating it. Durant probably has no interest in disparaging Golden State over how things were handled in the wake of his injury and his return to the court. And Irving, presumably, is being protective of his friend and new teammate.
Just when Durant plans to return to the court remains unclear. But there are no plans for him to play this season. General manager Sean Marks made that clear when he addressed the media on Tuesday. Durant and Marks discussed that message before the general manager relayed it to the public.
"Anytime he comes in here and says something, you don't have to come and ask me," Durant said on Friday when asked about Marks' message. "If he says it, it's coming from me. What he said last week (Tuesday) is what I'm thinking right now."
Irving added that he and the rest of the Nets organization will not rush Durant back to the court.
"We have expectations for our team and obviously he's an integral part, but we'll wait for that," Irving said. "I'm going to be patient, even over-patient with Kevin because I don't want something like that to happen to anyone again. Especially on that type of stage where it happened and he had to answer questions about whether he was coming back or not."
Irving added that he wants to make sure there is no pressure on Durant to return.
"I will make sure of it because I've been in that same position of being the guy that's injured on the team and everybody looking like, 'are you going to come back any time soon? If you come back then this is going to be our championship caliber team. If you were playing then this would happen,'" Irving said.
With Durant out for the foreseeable future and Wilson Chandler suspended for the first 25 games of the season, it will be interesting to see how the Nets lineups look early on. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said the club has several players who can play the forward spot in Durant/Chandler's absence. He mentioned free-agent signing David Nwaba as one of the options.
"It'll play out through competition," Atkinson said.