Warriors star Kevin Durant out for rest of West semifinals

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors grabs his ankle after injuring himself against the Houston Rockets during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 10 May 2019
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Warriors star Kevin Durant out for rest of West semifinals

  • Kevin Durant strained his calf during Game 5 of the Warriors-Rockets playoff series
  • As the Warriors returned to Houston for Friday’s Game 6, Durant stayed behind in the Bay Area to undergo treatment

OAKLAND, California: The Golden State Warriors will be without postseason scoring leader Kevin Durant as they try to close out the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
“Well, we’ll just find somebody on the bench who can give us 35 points and two blocks and 11 boards and nine assists,” coach Steve Kerr said once the team arrived back in Houston on Thursday evening.
An MRI exam Thursday confirmed the Warriors’ initial diagnosis of a strained right calf announced during Wednesday’s 104-99 win at Oracle Arena.
As the Warriors returned to Houston for Friday’s Game 6, Durant stayed behind in the Bay Area to undergo treatment. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated next week, meaning if there is a decisive Game 7 in the series Sunday he would be out of that one as well. The Warriors lead the series 3-2.
“He’s been the best player in the NBA, in the playoffs. He’s been phenomenal, so it’s obviously a huge loss, but our team has a lot of confidence,” Kerr said. “They trust each other. They’ve won championships together. So we come out and we give it our best shot, and we try to mix and match some lineups and find some minutes and some contributions where we haven’t had them so far in this series. Guys will get opportunities who haven’t had an opportunity yet. It’ll be a little different. But no reason why we can’t go get a win.”
Durant limped to the locker room after landing awkwardly on his right foot following a baseline jumper with 2:11 left in the third quarter Wednesday.
The Warriors initially feared the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP might have injured his Achilles, a far more serious issue.
“It’s a tough injury,” teammate Klay Thompson said. “We’ll have to collectively make up for what he does. We’ve done it before. It’s going to be incredibly difficult. It’s the playoffs. I know they’re not going to feel sorry for us, the media, the fans. It will be a gut check time. We go down there and give it our best effort. That’s all we can do. If we do that, I have confidence every man on this team will step up in his absence. We wish him a speedy recovery because we’re not the same team without him.”
Durant, who leads all postseason scorers at 34.2 points per game, finished with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes.
Golden State has been without injured stars like Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green or Thompson in big games before. The Warriors coaching staff planned to use the flight to reconfigure rotations for Game 6 without Durant, and Kerr said, “I have a pretty good feeling for it, but I’m not about to share it with you or anybody else other than our team.”
“Any time you see something like that, it’s scary,” Curry said after the game. “You could see the look on his face. He didn’t really understand what was happening in that moment, trying to figure it out, went straight back to the locker room. During the timeout, we all looked at each other. There were a couple smiles in terms of what that meant for us as a team, the guys that were going to need to step up in those moments. Again, next-man-up mentality. Draymond said that at some point during that timeout.
“It’s hard to remove yourself from thinking about your teammate and your brother as he’s back in the locker room getting checked out. But we were able to lock back in and just find a way to win the game. Now we can regroup and understand whatever the situation is going forward.”
Kevon Looney will certainly play more minutes as he did Wednesday. The big man grabbed nine rebounds, five on the offensive glass, to provide a big boost off the bench.
“We’re still really positive,” Looney said. “Our team’s been battle-tested, we’ve had to play without key guys before so whatever happens, happens. We’re ready and we’re confident that we have enough to win.”


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)