Programming note: Log on to the CSN Bay Area Facebook page Wednesday morning at 10 a.m when Warriors analyst Kelenna Azubuike joins "Warriors Outsiders" Drew Shiller and Grant Liffmann to bring you the latest on the Kevin Durant injury and the reported signing of Matt Barnes.
Kevin Durant played one minute in Washington on Tuesday before limping away for the rest of the night. Though it is not yet known how long he will be out, his absence changes everything for the Warriors.
From general scoring ability to playing rotations to floor spacing to rim protection to, maybe most of all, the swagger with which they take the floor, the Warriors will have to make massive adjustments to maintain the best record in the NBA.
As a largely veteran team they are capable, at least in the short term, of doing so.
Durant left with a hyperextended left knee and underwent an MRI test late Tuesday night in Washington. Diagnosis and prognosis are expected Wednesday.
“We’ll just wait and see,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters after a 112-108 loss to the Wizards at Verizon Center. “And keep our fingers crossed.”
If Durant is out three to five games, the Warriors can weather it.
If it’s six to 10 games, they’re in danger of losing their current top-seed status in the race to the playoffs.
If it’s more than 10 games, their championship-or-bust mindset is severely compromised.
“If he has to take some time off, we’re fine with it,” Klay Thompson said. “We just want him healthy down the stretch.”
Though Durant leads the team in scoring and rebounding and blocks, he may be the one All-Star they can best cover for over a few games. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson already have proved they can form the nucleus of a championship team. This will force them to raise their games, and there is room for each to do exactly that.
It’s conceivable that some of Green’s minutes will come at small forward, partly because he’s capable -- he’s already running the offense as a “point forward” -- and partly because the roster has more “bigs” than wings.
The question, then, is how much help will the Warriors get from everyone else, from rookie Pat McCaw -- a probable short-term replacement for Durant -- and the veterans coming off the bench.
More will be asked of Andre Iguodala, and he has proved he can deliver. More will be expected of Shaun Livingston, and he appears ready to answer the call. More will be asked David West and JaVale McGee and James Michael McAdoo and probably Kevon Looney too.
Iguodala averages roughly 26 minutes but can add a maybe four or more. Livingston averages about 17 minutes and comfortably put in another five to eight. West averages less than 10 minutes but can take a bigger load; he was effective in a 13-minute stint on Tuesday.
If Durant is out for an extended period, the Warriors may have to look at the buyout market. Would they consider a power forward, say Terrence Jones, who has some talent and is available? Keep in mind that players signed after Wednesday will not be eligible for the postseason.
The Warriors will spend the coming hours deciding what to do, if anything, other than sign Jose Calderon. The championship season, as visualized, is in jeopardy.
“We’re not going to act like he died,” Green said. “We don’t even know what happened, or what’s going on. We’ve got to know something . . . we really don’t know much right now.”
This much is certain: No one or two or even three players can give what Durant does. No player in the league is tougher to defend because no player has his combination of length, agility, athleticism and inside/outside shooting ability.
The Warriors will have to use a committee approach to compensate for the loss of Durant. They only hope the committee won’t be needed for long.