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NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: Notable players who have returned from a ruptured Achilles

The Golden State Warriors won Game 5 of the NBA Finals to keep their season alive, but they lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles in the process.

How will the injury impact the rest of Durant's career? To get an idea, let's take a look at notable players who have ruptured their Achilles.

About the injury

According to a 2013 study by The American Journal of Sports Medicine that identified 18 players who suffered a ruptured Achilles between 1988 to 2011, seven of them never returned to the NBA. The players who returned missed an average of 56 games and saw their stats decrease in their first and second season.

Another study by CBS Sports in 2015 found that 14 players who did return from the injury averaged fewer minutes with a decrease in efficiency.

To learn more about the injury, click here.

DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins went through the same injury as Durant on Jan. 26, 2018, when he was still playing for the New Orleans Pelicans. After an offensive rebound, Boogie felt something pop in his left foot and collapsed on the floor.

A few hours later, it was confirmed - a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Cousins ​​signed with Warriors in free agency while he was still rehabbing. With questions looming about how he'd return from the injury, the Warriors were able to sign Cousins to a one-year, $5.3 million contract, offering him an opportunity to be patient with his recovery and compete for a championship.

Cousins ​​returned to action on Jan. 18, 2019, when the Warriors beat the LA Clippers.

How did Boogie return?

Although he has had some big games, Cousins ​​is far from being the dominant force he was with the Sacramento Kings or Pelicans. There have been several times in these playoffs where he's been unplayable, displaying little explosion and speed. It's hurt him most defensively.

Kobe Bryant

Perhaps the most well-known case on this list.

On April 12, 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers were playing their 80th game of the season. Kobe Bryant had played in 78 of them with a massive minutes load - almost 40 minutes per game - and that night against the Golden State Warriors was no exception.

Late in the fourth quarter, Bryant drove past Harrison Barnes and felt "like someone kicked him." The referees whistled Barnes for a foul and the Lakers star hobbled to the line, where he knocked down two free throws before going to the locker room. He later underwent an MRI that revealed a ruptured left Achilles.

Bryant returned to action less than a year later (Dec. 8, 2013) against the Toronto Raptors. That season, Bryant played in only six games.

How did Kobe return?

Bryant was no longer in his prime when he tore his Achilles. He was almost 35-years-old and the Lakers weren't the powerhouse they once were.

Bryant managed to play two more seasons as Laker, but they were far from his best. After his injury, his efficiency took a major hit - he shot 36.4 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from the 3-point line in his final two seasons.

In 2016, Bryant announced his retirement.

Rudy Gay

Now with the San Antonio Spurs, Gay ruptured his Achilles in 2017 when he was a member of the Sacramento Kings.

How did Gay return?

Other than his rookie season, Gay had never played less than 34 minutes per game in a single season. Since rupturing his Achilles, his minutes have been reduced to 24.4.

Gay is, however, coming off of a season in which he started in 51 games with the Spurs and averaged 13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He's still an effective player.

Wesley Matthews

Matthews tore his Achilles on March 5, 2015. It was a huge loss for the Portland Trail Blazers at the time, as Matthews was the starting shooting guard on a team that entered the game with a 40-19 record, the fourth-best in the Western Conference.

How did Matthews return?

Now 32-years-old, Matthews is perhaps the most hopeful example for Durant in a physical sense. Matthews returned in time for the start of the 2015-16 season and played 78 games, logging the same amount of minutes as the season before.

What did decrease significantly, however, was his shooting efficiency. After shooting 45% from the field and 39% from the perimeter in his final season with the Blazers, Matthews has combined to shoot 37% from the field and 37% from the perimeter over the last four seasons.

Chauncey Billups

Billups tore his Achilles when he was 35-years-old, 14 seasons into his NBA career. He was still an effective player prior to his injury, averaging 15.0 points in 30.4 minutes per game.

How did Billups return?

Billups wasn't close to the same player afterwards. He played a total of 41 games over the next two seasons, averaging 6.2 points in 17.7 minutes per game.

Dominique Wilkins

Wilkins ruptured his Achilles in the 1991-92 season, when he was 32-years-old. He suffered the injury on the same day that he was named a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.

How did Wilkins return?

Unlike the other players on this list, Wilkins returned to his All-Star form.

Wilkins returned the following season and averaged 29.9 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He went on to make two more All-Star teams and two more All-NBA Teams - the All-NBA Second Team in 1992-93 and the All-NBA Third Team in 1993-94.

That's an encouraging sign for Durant.

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