The Golden State Warriors team doctors cleared Kevin Durant for play in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The doctors went through the protocol; they were careful. Durant looked good, as anyone who watched the first quarter could plainly see. Durant stepped in and returned to superstar status without seeming to miss a beat, despite nearly a month’s absence. All this is well known and will be long discussed, after Durant — who, it must be said, also wanted valiantly to play to help his team — injured his Achilles, putting his basketball future in doubt.
Here’s the other part of the story. Over on the Toronto Raptors side of the court stood Kawhi Leonard. After suffering a quad injury last season, Leonard was also reportedly cleared by San Antonio Spurs team doctors — but still his quad didn’t feel right to him. Leonard did not return, was accused by prominent voices of quitting on his team, yet he stayed true — despite the criticism — to his own assessment of his physical condition.
Ultimately feeling that his own health was not the Spurs priority, Leonard got himself traded to Toronto — where the team treated him and his minutes gingerly during the regular season allowing him to heal at a pace he was comfortable with.
Talking about how the Raptors training staff had treated him, Leonard simply says, “it was big. When it got bad, we ended up taking four of five games off. If we didn’t do that I wouldn’t be here right now.” (See video below.)
When Leonard looked over at Durant hobbling off the court, perhaps as a result of returning too soon from injury, he saw what he believed would have happened to him last year if he’d listened only to the Spurs team doctors. Instead Leonard listed to his own inner voice and made his moves accordingly. As Durant limped away, Leonard had to think: that could have been me.