Durant had been rehabbing for weeks from what the Warriors were publicly calling a calf strain, but skeptics believed the original injury was more severe. There had also been plenty of pressure on Durant to return, with his team facing a series deficit against the Toronto Raptors.
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala remembers facing similarly immense pressure to return during the 2018 playoffs after missing the last four games of the conference finals and Games 1 and 2 of The Finals due to a leg issue. In an interview on Tuesday, he claimed the Warriors weren't truthful about the extent of his injury, which led to him clashing with parties both outside and inside the organization.
"I had a fractured leg and it's being put out there like he's got a bone bruise," Iguodala said on 105.1 FM's "The Breakfast Club." "I'm fighting with the team. I'm fighting with people. I'm fighting with the media. And then my teammates ask me every day, 'How you feeling, how you feeling?'"
Iguodala added that Durant was constantly asked for updates from his teammates and inner circle while sitting out this year. During the playoffs, the superstar's absence was reported to be causing "a mixture of confusion and angst," which apparently grew when he didn't play in Game 4 of The Finals. Iguodala believes Durant's decision to return for Game 5 may have been influenced by those voices.
"You're validated as an athlete if you win a championship or (based on) how tough you are," Iguodala said. "If you sit out, it's like, 'Ah, he's not tough.' If you think about it, the history of sports is all about people's perception of you and they want to get their gratification through you for themselves."
Durant holds a $31.5-million player option with the Warriors for the 2019-20 campaign but is expected to decline it. He's also expected to miss the majority, if not all, of the season due to his Achilles injury.