Tony Massenburg, who played at the University of Maryland from 1985-1990 and went on to enjoy a long NBA career, was as captivated as the rest of the sports world at what unfolded in Toronto during Game 5 of the NBA Finals June 10.
Massenburg, who played for an NBA record-tying 12 teams during his career, said that he understands why Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant wanted to play on his injured calf in Game 5, even with the risks associated with the decision.
"I think as an athlete you have to look at your situation and figure where you are in your career and what the risks are and what you stand to lose versus what you stand to gain," Massenburg said on
Glenn Clark Radio
June 11. "Ultimately athletes always want to play if there is any way for them to play."
Durant announced June 12
he underwent surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon. The two-time NBA Finals MVP will likely be sidelined for most, if not all of the 2019-20 season. Free agency is looming this offseason for Durant if he chooses to opt out of a $31.5 million option for the 2019-20 season with Golden State, and the injury could change his mindset heading into the offseason.
Massenburg believes Durant made the decision to play in Game 5 based on the present and wanting to be there for his teammates in a time of need with their backs up against the wall down, 3-1, in its attempt to win a third straight NBA title.
"Kevin Durant makes a decision to play and now we see what happened from that," Massenburg said. "For Durant to want to be out there for his team and not want to be criticized for not stepping up at a time when his team obviously needed him, that is what would override his decision about securing his future."
When it comes to the rest of the series, Massenburg is excited to see how things play out, even without Durant on the floor. He predicted the Raptors to take the series in seven games before it started, and he's sticking with his prediction. Toronto leads the series, three games to two, with the series shifting back to Golden State for Game 6. The Raptors would host Game 7 if necessary.
"When I look at the Raptors, if they continue to just play their game and be solid defensively the way that they have and rely on Kawhi Leonard to close games at the end, they can still win this series," Massenburg said.
Leonard has led the way for Toronto all playoffs long, making play after play to lead the Raptors throughout the playoffs and showing why Raptors president Masai Ujiri made the gamble to trade for him this past offseason. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP, Leonard has averaged 30.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this postseason.
Although he thinks the Raptors will ultimately be the ones holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy and deliver the city of Toronto its first-ever NBA championship, Massenburg does see a path for the Warriors to flip the script on this series and win in honor of Durant.
Massenburg, an NBA champion with the Spurs in 2005, believes one key for the Warriors will be more consistency from DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins. The four-time All-Star center suffered a torn Achilles last season and more recently a quad injury in April that forced him to miss most of the playoffs. He's averaged just 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the Finals, but had one his most impactful games of the series in Game 5, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field.
"He is clearly a difference maker. He gives them another dimension," Massenburg said. "Boogie Cousins gives them a presence on the interior that the Warriors [otherwise] do not have. It's also a presence that not only is on the interior, but he always gives them another threat at the 3-point line as a big who can drag the other team's bigs away from the basket because he has to be respected at the 3-point line."
Massenburg played for the Maryland men's basketball team during the program's darkest years following the death of Len Bias. Massenburg, a power forward from Sussex, Va., played with Bias for one season and recently co-authored a book with Terps legend Walt Williams about Bias titled "Lessons From Lenny."
"The first thing you need to know is that this book was written as a way for Walt Williams and I to talk about the positive influence that Len Bias had on us, the community and on the University of Maryland overall," Massenburg said.
"Lessons From Lenny" can be bought anywhere books are sold or at
. People who order from the website directly will receive the book autographed by Massenburg and Williams.
"The things that I went through as a teammate of Len Bias in the aftermath, allowed me to develop into the person I am," Massenburg said. "The lessons from Lenny that Walt and I talk about are things that not just apply to basketball but to everyday life. We talk about the biggest lesson of all, one mistake, one decision can cost you everything that you ever dreamed of at a time when you think you have achieved your dreams."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
To hear more from Massenburg, listen to the full interview here: