There was speculation that Warriors super-star Kevin Durant might not see the floor in the 2019 NBA Finals.
Durant, who suffered a calf injury in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs, hadn't logged any minutes in just over a month when he started Game 5 of the Finals as the Warriors faced elimination in a road contest with the Toronto Raptors.
With the 106-105 win, they forced a Game 6 in Oakland. The Warriors won the battle but lost the war. In allowing Kevin Durant to play, I saw the back-to-back champions panic for the first time I can remember - and the mistake will cost one man millions.
The free-agent-to-be made three of his first five shots (all 3-pointers) and two free-throws, good for 11 points which gave the Warriors a boost from the jump, leading by as many as seven in the quarter. Two minutes into the second quarter, his fate changed dramatically.
Defended by the Raptors' Serge Ibaka, Durant tried to make a move with the ball to get past his defender, Durant turned the ball over and fell to the floor, favoring his right leg. Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced that it was an Achilles injury after the game but did not release information about the severity of it.
Team officials and doctors had cleared Durant for play, but was it a rushed decision?
I think so, let's take a look back. The two sides split Games 1 and 2 in Toronto. The Raptors stole Games 3 and 4 in Oakland, sending the series back to Toronto at 3-1.
If the GSW split those home games and tie the series, I'm not so sure we see Durant in Game 5 - because their backs wouldn't have been against the wall. He wouldn't have played then and shouldn't have played last night. The risk was too high.
Let's not glaze over the fact that Kevon Looney, who has given valuable minutes in the playoffs, also returned from injury in the series. He, too, left Game 5 after re-aggravating a chest injury.
Durant's dedication to his team is admirable, with a title on the line any competitor wants to be on the floor but in a day and age when players are making decisions based on what's best for them in the future, this was the opposite.
The re-injury not only changed the NBA Finals, but the NBA landscape entering next year. There were teams drooling over the thought of having Kevin Durant in their organization. Perhaps more so him than Kyre Irving (Boston Celtics) or Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) who are also set to become free agents this summer.
If indeed he did tear his Achilles tendon, Durant might not see the floor until February or March at the earliest. Two-hundred forty days passed before Kobe Bryant played in another game after tearing his Achilles in 2013. The wait was even longer, 357 days, for Warriors Center DeMarcus Cousins who tore his last season.
There's no question that KD was playing at an extremely high level and on his way to a max-contract with someone next year. He finishes the 2019 playoffs averaging a hair over 30 points per game. A game-changer and fantastic competitor - but now there's an asterisk. Will he come back as dominant as he was this year? Will a team like the New York Knicks take a chance on the injured star?
We'll have to wait and see, but I doubt he gets a maximum contract now, his value has been reduced by millions.
One thing is true, though - the Warriors aren't beating the Raptors in the NBA Finals without Kevin Durant.
Raptors in six.
Luke Creasy is a staff writer for the Wayne County News. Follow him on Twitter @HDcreasy.