After Kevin Durant injured his calf in the Western Conference semifinals, the speculation about when he would return to the court was constant.
A month later, Durant finally suited up for the Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, only to rupture his Achilles tendon in the second quarter. That sequence of events led many to wonder if the Warriors were not being entirely transparent about the severity of Durant’s injury.
Andre Iguodala, Durant’s teammate, went through something similar. In the 2018 playoffs, Iguodala injured his leg in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. The team characterized Iguodala’s injury as a “bone bruise,” but he said in an interview with “The Breakfast Club” morning radio show Tuesday morning that he actually had a fracture.
In the interview, Iguodala said the Warriors’ training staff is one of the “best in the world” and gave it credit for getting Durant back on the court. But he also described what happens behind the scenes when a player is trying to return from an injury — especially in the playoffs.
“When you’re an athlete and you’re hurt, everybody is looking at you sideways. Last year it happened to me,” Iguodala said (the Durant discussion begins around the 16:10 mark). “I missed the last three games of the Houston series. It goes to Game 7, and we barely get out of that series. And now they’re looking at me like, ‘When are you coming back?’ And I had a fractured leg and it’s being put out there like, ‘He’s got a bone bruise.’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s fractured.’
“So I’m fighting with the team, I’m fighting with people, I’m fighting with the media and my teammates ask me every day how I’m feeling. So with [Durant], he’s getting it from everywhere, too.”
Iguodala has previously used the word “fracture” to describe the injury, but his perspective gives you added context to what the day-to-day process must have been like for Durant. And when the Warriors fell behind eventual champion Toronto in the series, the pressure for Durant to return to the floor, play through the discomfort and help his team was only magnified. And the backdrop of Durant’s impending free agency added an additional layer of complication to the situation.
Iguodala: Mark Jackson blackballed by the NBA
Iguodala touched on many issues through the nearly hour-long interview. At one point, former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, now a commentator for ESPN, was brought up. Jackson coached the Warriors for three seasons, but was fired in 2014 — the year before the Warriors’ first title.
Jackson undoubtedly had a role in developing stars like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but he hasn’t landed a coaching job since. Iguodala says he believes Jackson is being blackballed by the league.
Iguodala praised Jackson and said much of the disconnect stems from a conflict between Jackson and Warriors president Rick Welts. Jackson has long been outspoken about his Christian beliefs. According to Iguodala, Jackson’s point of view on certain things did not mesh with Welts, who is openly gay.
“One particular issue was his views on gender or marriage or what the Bible says on your sexuality. And the head of our business, Rick Welts, he’s celebrated as one of the top execs in sports on the business side, and he’s gay, so there was conflicts with that that was widespread,” Iguodala said.
— The Breakfast Club (@breakfastclubam) June 25, 2019
Iguodala: ‘Real’ Warriors fans got ‘priced out’
As the Warriors’ dynasty strengthened, Iguodala says the team’s true fans, the ones that were there when the team was growing in the early years of Curry and Thompson, were “priced out” by Silicon Valley. As a result, the average fan can’t afford to attend a Warriors game, especially during the playoffs.
“The places we come from are a lot different from our arena fanbase,” Iguodala said. “When I first got there, we were kind of up-and-coming. And I always say we priced our real fans out. Now you look at it. Who’s our fanbase? It’s Silicon Valley, which is the richest community in the world.”
Iguodala pointed to the incident with Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Mark Stevens, a part-owner of the Warriors, during Game 3 of the Finals. After Lowry went after a loose ball and crashed into the front row, Stevens cursed at Lowry and shoved him.
“The dude is worth $2.4 billion. You could kind of tell he wasn’t in his right state. But at the same time, that’s him reacting naturally. That was kind of crazy,” Iguodala said of Stevens, who was banned from the rest of the Finals and all of next season by the league.
“Sometimes there is a little bit of a disconnect between the in-arena fanbase and the players because we’ve outpriced a lot of the genuine basketball community. It’s a gift and a curse. The reason we can make so much money is because of ticket sales and the people that spend money on suites. We have a new arena going up. They’ve sold already $2 billion in ticket sales and the arena’s not open yet.”
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