NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Greg Brown was brought up under the old school line of thinking that measures a player’s greatness on how tough he is, whether he’s on the court or contemplating a return from an injury.
That much was evident in watching Brown play in the Nike EYBL this season, boasting a relentless motor on both ends of the floor which translated into dominance.
Still, after watching former Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant rupture his Achilles tendon during Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto last month, Brown said he’ll likely trade in being tough for what he deems as being smart.
“It was a wake-up call for me,” said Brown, a forward with the Texas Titans.
Before returning for Game 5, Durant had been sidelined for more than a month with a strained calf, which he suffered in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets.
He was cleared by the Warriors’ medical staff to return and suffered the Achilles injury, which will likely keep him sidelined for nearly a year.
On July 7, Durant left the Warriors and signed with the Brooklyn Nets.
Brown’s cautious sentiments are shared by most of the players at the Nike Peach Jam this week, though some couldn’t deviate from their roots.
“It happened to the best player in the biggest game,” said Brown, ranked No. 4 in USA Today Sports’ Chosen 25. “It was real.”
Texas Titans point guard Cade Cunningham admitted that even though he knows it can happen, he “never really thought too much” about the notion that playing through a nagging injury could make it worse.
“It’s hard because we all think we’re invincible in some ways,” said Cunningham, ranked No. 5 the Chosen 25. “KD is one of my favorite players so it hit closer for me. We just think what are the chances of that happening. Now we see this, and we see it definitely can happen.”
Still, not every player was ready to abandon the “tough it out” foundation they learned under.
AOT (Georgia) point guard Sharife Cooper said that, while watching Durant get injured was tough, he’s “sure” he would’ve “been right out there playing just like him.”
“I’m just built different,” said Cooper, the No. 1 player in the Chose 25. “If it’s something that I feel like I can play through, I’m getting out there, period.”
Seattle (Washington) Rotary forward Paolo Banchero understands that line of thinking and for that reason said it’s important to have people in your circle that can protect you from yourself.
“You need that person that can step in that you respect,” said Banchero, ranked No. 5 overall in the Chosen 25 for 2021. “That’s so important. It’s up to us to listen, but sometimes we need that person that’s gonna shut us down and make that call.”
Cunningham said “the whole situation with KD” forced him to revamp his whole thought process on health.
“Health is wealth,” Cunningham said. “No one wants to sit on the sidelines, but you have to do whatever it takes to be around long term. That’s how you have to think.”
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