To Play or Not To Play: Durant’s Damning Dilemma

The NBA Finals stands at 3-1, with the Toronto Raptors just a win away from making history as a first-time NBA Champion. Toronto started off as a betting underdog to the Golden State Warriors. They then got blown out in the second game held right in Toronto to lose the homecourt advantage. However, the Raptors has since regrouped and have dealt the Warriors a shocking 2-game losing streak right in Oakland.

Now facing a daunting deficit, with 2 out of 3 games to be held in the hostile environs of Toronto, and with the Warriors looking more like the walking wounded – including himself, Kevin Durant is faced with a big problem. Should he play or not?

durant3TheStraitTimes
Durant’s abrupt exit has been a big blow to the Warriors’ ability to 3-peat. (The Strait Times)

But first, will he be 100% fit to play? Reports say he’s not yet 100% ready.

If he does play at 75-80% fit, will Durant be good for the team? Or will he be detrimental to the team?

There are 2 possibilities here. If Durant plays and the Warriors lose, he could get partly blamed for insisting to play on a hobbled leg. Conjuring a Willis Reed-type of dramatic entrance to rally the team and the crowd won’t work here. (Watch Willis Reed in the historic Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 1970.) It is in hostile Raptor territory they will be playing in.

If he plays and they win, his stock rises tenfold. His presence becomes the big difference that spells victory or defeat. But then, they still have 2 more formidable games ahead. What is the likelihood of them making a grand comeback, winning 3 successive games? Doesn’t look too promising, if I may say so. Still possible, but not probable.

durant9ScrollIn
The marquee match-up between these 2 fine cage giants was what we missed with Kevin’s injury. (Scroll In)

And if he doesn’t play, there are again 2 possibilities. If the Warriors overcome all odds to win the series, that would only cement the belief that the Warriors were simply too good after all. His stock doesn’t change. It is the Warriors’ stock – specifically, the Splash Brothers’ – that is boosted. It vindicates the team that lost to Lebron’s Cavaliers in the second year of their 4-year romance with the NBA Finals, the only year they lost.

If he doesn’t play and the Warriors lose, his stock rises. Immensely. People will see him as the lost ingredient in the loss. Twice MVP in the past 2 NBA Finals, his absence in a lost Finals will give him more value when the Free Agent market starts moving. He could opt to stay, he could opt out, but the bottomline is that he will have demonstrated his grave importance to the team. With the Raptors’ commanding 3-1 lead, it looks like this is where the ball bounces. 

Given the 4 possible circumstances in his present state, I believe Kevin has more to lose if he plays. Kevin needs to play, but only if he’s 100% fit to play.

Given that, I believe the King in the East will finally rule the Cage Kingdom once again. 

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