By LARRY VAUGHT
I couldn’t help but think about PJ Washington Monday night and the way some Kentucky fans questioned his toughness and loyalty to UK when he was hurt late in the season and had to miss two NCAA Tournament games. Some wondered if he was really hurt so bad that he couldn’t play or whether he might be more worried about his NBA future.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant went out with a leg injury during the NBA playoffs. Without him, the Warriors are not the same team. Knowing he can be a free agent and sign a mega deal, many thought he wouldn’t risk playing. But with the Warriors down 3-1 to Toronto, he came back and was off to a great start before going down again — this time with a significant injury that could jeopardize next season for him.
His team was emotional when it happened and after they managed to win. It was the same with the Cats when Washignton was hurt but then came back to help UK beat Houston to reach the Elite Eight. Still, the bottom line is that athletes take a risk playing when they are not 100 percent no matter how much they want to play.
Take a look at what Golden State superstar Steph Curry talked about after the game:
Q. You guys just had one of the guttiest wins in recent memory here in the Finals, yet nobody’s really celebrating. Can you just speak to like the family-like connection that you guys have. It was striking to see Bob Myers and Klay Thompson and Steve Kerr feeling so somber after such a great win. Can you speak to that, please.
STEPHEN CURRY: Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships and the greatness that you see on the floor, but life is more important in terms of caring about an individual and what they’re going through on a daily basis. And you see the commitment and the challenges and just the what’s been thrown at KD this whole year, really. And he gave us what he had, he went out there and sacrificed his body, and we know how it turned out.
So a part of our mentality and the experiences, the shared experiences we have as a team and what we have all been through, that’s way more important than anything that happens out there or long-term anything that happens on the court. I just feel so bad for him, to be honest, like that’s nobody should have to go through something like that, especially with this stage that we have.
Q. What did you say to KD after the injury and what did he say to you?
STEPHEN CURRY: Honestly, I don’t know. It was kind of an emotional moment all the way around. Something told me just to go back there. I really don’t know what I said or what he said, it just sucks, man. Like I don’t really know what else to say about it. So that’s it.
Q. Bob Myers was in here and he said, “The people that question whether he wanted to get back were wrong. Kevin is one of the most misunderstood people. He’s a good teammate and I’m lucky to know him.” What do you think Bob means when he says, “He’s one of the most misunderstood people”?
STEPHEN CURRY: When you’re on this level of greatness and everybody’s kind of poking and producing trying to narrate your story and tell you who you are, who you should be, what decisions you should make constantly over and over and over again, it’s part of what comes with this territory. But it’s just, when you get to know somebody and see how genuine they are and how committed they are just to playing basketball and having fun and living life a certain way, you root for those type of guys. And like he said, whatever his outward appearance is or whatever he says to the media or whatever, like at the end of the day the people that know him, know what type of guy he is and know how special of an individual he is.
So all those emotions come into it when you see him go down like that, where he’s giving us everything he has. It’s not even about this series, it’s about long-term, his mindset and being able to get back to the player and the person that he has shown consistently over the course of his career.
Q. You touched on it a little bit, but out of all the players that walked Kevin Durant all the way back to the locker room, you were the only one that was still in the game at that time, and at the NBA Finals stage where your timeouts are limited and seconds are going by, you guys got to get a play up, why did you feel it was so necessary to kind of go at that point?
STEPHEN CURRY: Sometimes the spirit tells you what to do. You don’t really make decisions, you just act on it. So I can’t tell you what went through my head, it just felt right.
Q. Even though Kevin was hurt, he went to Instagram and he said, “Dub Nation going to be loud as F for Game 6, I’m hurting deep in my soul right now. I can’t lie, but seeing my brothers get this win was like taking a shot of tequila. I got new life, LOL, #Dubs.” How does that make you feel even though he’s hurting that he’s still thinking about you guys, thinking about Game 6, still being a leader and trying to let you guys know that even though you guys feel so bad, that he’s going to be right there with you?
STEPHEN CURRY: I think it goes back to what Bob was saying about him being misunderstood in terms of what’s important to him. Playing basketball is important, being a good human being is important, selflessness of, like you said going through a situation like he’s going through right now, he has the initiative to go speak to an entire fan base and to hype us up as his teammates and his brothers.
So I would expect nothing less or nothing different in terms of how he responds to this, although he’s going to go through some challenges through this process, whatever, however, long it takes, but we’re going to be there for him, for sure.
Q. You hear a lot of times players talk about a guy who goes down who inspires them. It’s clear what your feelings are about this player and this guy. How much can Kevin Durant’s spirit still lift this team in a spot like this?
STEPHEN CURRY: I think just in terms of the opportunity we have in front of us in two days, we’ll be suiting up in front of Oracle Arena and like you said, with the amazing atmosphere and opportunity to play for him, and to kind of honor the sacrifice, I guess, he made in terms of putting his body on the line tonight.
We’re going to give everything we got. I would like to say I would guarantee the win, but who knows how it’s going to end up, but we’re going to give everything we got. We’re going to fight, we’re going to compete, and I know if we get a chance to talk to him the next two days, that’s what he would expect. So I’m excited about that proposition in terms of what we have to do on Thursday, but at the end of the day I’m still heartbroken for a guy that gave everything he had for us.