Kevin Durant’s return no longer is subject to speculation. He’s set to take the court with the Warriors when they face the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night at Oracle Arena.
Durant missed 19 full games and all but one minute of a 20th game with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and bone bruise in his left knee. He was cleared Thursday to resume full contact-practices, the first of which will come on Friday.
Assuming no aggravation, Durant likely will play 18 to 24 minutes on Saturday. His teammates have made it clear in recent days that they look forward to his return.
“We’re all anticipating a warm welcome and a great night,” Klay Thompson said late Wednesday night. “We’ve missed him these last few weeks. And I know he’s ready to go. So we’re all very, very excited.”
In Durant’s absence, the Warriors were 15-5, with all five losses coming during the first seven games, which combined a rocky adjustment period with the most demanding travel schedule of the season. They have since won 13 in a row.
Durant’s return will require another adjustment period, except this one will be much shorter and easier.
“He’s so efficient, once he gets his timing back, we should be off and running,” Stephen Curry said.
Durant has spent the past week undergoing vigorous workouts, putting his knee to the test. It passed every step of the way.
Rookie Pat McCaw and veteran Matt Barnes, who shared starts in Durant’s absence, will lose playing time over the final three regular-season games, as the Warriors prepare for the playoffs that begin April 15-16.
“The change comes with the rotation,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I don’t think it’ll affect our play negatively at all. We’re getting one of the top few players in the league back. So it’s going to improve our play. We’re going to have to get comfortable with our rotations.”