Although most onlookers believe Kevin Durant will be fine, this injury presents more issues for the Golden State Warriors than meets the eye.
For the second straight season, it’s a knee injury to a star player that has fans of the Warriors rife with trepidation. Kevin Durant suffered a grade 2 sprained MCL in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s loss in Washington.
Kevin Durant headed to the locker room after suffering an apparent knee injury on this play: pic.twitter.com/Op5iFizNrs
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) March 1, 2017
Last year, it was Stephen Curry who was injured during the first round of the playoffs after slipping on a wet spot. The look on his face coupled with the sight of him limping into a huddle that culminated in a prayer, illustrated his season was over. And thus, so was Golden State’s historic run.
But the two-time league MVP returned after just a two week hiatus with a statement game. He poured in 40 points (16 in overtime), nine rebounds and eight assists. All of a sudden, the optimism had returned.
This time around Durant is done for at least four weeks when he will then be reevaluated. It’s a devastating friendly fire for a bevy of reasons.
Based on team’s difference in net rating with a player on/off court, Durant is the Big 4 member the Warriors can MOST afford to be without. pic.twitter.com/fFkUv4QQ5C
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 1, 2017
While the numbers tell a story about how valuable each of the Big-4 are to the team’s overall success, it would be a mistake to surmise what’s outlined at the end of this tweet.
These numbers are understandable, considering Durant’s the new guy on the block. Everyone knew it would take time for him to acclimate himself. This culture in Golden State differs from the isolation-heavy environment he was a part of in OKC.
Because of this, it was an important regular season campaign for KD. Meanwhile, that wasn’t the case for his teammates who won 73 games last year.
Durant’s absence hurts the chemistry. Naturally they’ll make the requisite adjustments to get used to playing without him. But once he returns, they’ll need to relearn playing with him. This entire process becomes a challenge since he’s a superstar that they were just beginning to get comfortable with.
You could make a legitimate argument this is the one guy the Warriors would prefer not to be without. He needs all the time he can get learning this new system.
Furthermore, this injury changes the team’s methodology as it pertains to resting players ahead of the postseason. Guys might’ve experienced some fatigue at the end of last season due to the relentless chase of history. Experience is the best teacher. And this was a lesson they learned the hard way.
Theoretically, head coach Steve Kerr would employ a better strategy to rest his players. It’s easier to do when you have four of the Top-20 players in basketball.
To add fuel to the fire, the Spurs are just three games back in the life column. This race for the No. 1 seed isn’t over by any means and could go down to the wire.
So the Warriors have the daunting task of trying to hold off San Antonio while not over-exerting themselves.
They’re also going to do their best not to rush KD back from injury. This was something that happened with Curry last year. And though he erupted in his first game back, it was clear the pain limited his mobility later in the postseason.
In the end, it could’ve been much worse for a Warriors team with championship aspirations. Their entire season rode on the Kevin Durant’s MRI results.
But with the news that he is expected to be back before the end of the regular season, the priority for Kerr and company is to just get to the playoffs with a healthy squad as the No. 1 seed.