Durant's injury changes everything for Warriors, but not a death blow

Durant's injury changes everything for Warriors, but not a death blow

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.


Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays


Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays

OAKLAND -- When he returns to the Warriors, likely on Friday, Stephen Curry will alter nothing about his game despite coming off a four-month period during which his surgically repaired right ankle endured multiple aggravations.

He’ll be the same Curry that fans have come to know, diving into passing lanes on defense while firing up 3-pointers and darting in and out of paint traffic on offense.

It’s the only way he knows how to play, and he’s played long enough to accept that it comes with risk.

“When I wake up in the morning I’ll know the difference between my right (ankle) and my left,” Curry said Thursday after practice. “But that won’t stop me from being who I am on the floor and having confidence in myself when I get back out there.”

Curry missed 11 games after spraining his ankle on Dec. 4 in New Orleans. He missed two games after tweaking it in shootaround on Jan 10. He missed no games after tweaking it March 2 in Atlanta. He has missed the last six games after tweaking it on March 8 against the Spurs.

“I’ve been very durable over the course of my career,” said Curry, who is listed as probable but fully expects to play Friday against Atlanta. “It’s just that I’ve had three untimely, freak accidents happen.”

Curry stepped on E’twaun Moore’s foot in New Orleans, on Zaza Pachulia’s foot in Atlanta and Dejounte Murray’s foot against the Spurs at Oracle Arena.

Not once in the previous five regular seasons did Curry miss significant time due to his tricky ankle. He missed a total of 16 games during that span, never more than four in a season, and six of those were for reasons of rest.

This season, however, has tested Curry’s patience like nothing since 2011-12, after which he had his second ankle surgery. He concedes that being in and out of the lineup has left him at times feeling “boredom, monotony and frustration.”

Though some of that can be attributed to the rehab process, there is no doubt part of that stems from watching the Warriors from the sideline.

With Curry out of the lineup this season, the Warriors are 13-8 (he missed one game with a hand bruise, another with a thigh bruise). That they are 40-10 when he’s in the lineup illustrates his importance.

It’s not just that he’s important. Curry is the catalyst for the offense and he can only be that if he is playing without regard for the possibility of injury. A hesitant Curry can’t be an effective Curry, so full throttle is the only way to go.

"If we’re trying to win a championship, I need to be out there,” he said. “That’s a given. We want every single guy out there, healthy and available, myself included. That’s the ideal situation.”

If he gets hurt along the way, so be it. As man of faith, he believes that anything that happens is influenced by a higher power.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting 3s or pullups are going into the lane or playing defense, that’s liable to happen any time,” Curry said. “Other than those instances, I haven’t had anything to worry about on the injury front. We are prisoners of the moment when it comes (playing the game). I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I have to change anything based on me being a durable player and being on the court consistently.

“Down the line, if you ask me about it in three of four years, there might be something I might need to change. But not right now.”

There is a segment of fans, worried about Curry’s health and realizing it is tied to the fate of the team, who would like him to dial back his aggression. Maybe avoid the paint and settle for more jump shots. He’s heard the advice and is not unwilling to launch a few more shots from deep.

But Curry is going to go where he sees daylight, and the best chance to make a positive play. He’ll take his chances because hesitation has no place in his mind or his game.


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'

Back in late October, the Warriors declined their $2.3 million team option on Kevon Looney for the 2018-19 season.

How did that make him feel?

"It was kind of a let down," Looney told Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson on the Warriors Plus/Minus Podcast. "I knew it was up in the air. It was going back and forth, back and forth. When they didn't pick it up -- they told me why, I understood, I've been here for three years, I've seen a lot of players come and go; I know basketball is a business -- I was kind of let down.

"But I knew I was going to try and make the most of it. Now I'm playing for my contract for next year. I just wanted to go prove myself. I knew this summer there was a lot of doubts about what I could do. People were doubting if I would even be in the NBA still ... I knew what I was capable of."

Looney underwent surgery on his right hip in August 2015, and appeared in just five games during his rookie season.

He then had surgery on his left hip in April 2016, and appeared in 53 games (8.4 minutes per night) during the 2016-17 season.

This year, he's averaging career highs in points (3.5), rebounds (2.9), blocks (0.7) and minutes (12.0).

"This summer, I decided I just wanted to try go back to the way I played in college. It's been working for me," Looney explained. "I lost about 30 pounds this offseason and it's really made me a lot faster and a lot quicker. And I've been staying healthy."

How did he drop all that weight?

"A lot of broccoli and turkey and plain food. Food that wasn't that good but it's something that I had to get used to," Looney said. "Taco Bell, fried chicken, I was eating that on the regular ... coming off of injury, you can't eat like that. It's a different level of intensity in the NBA.

"I had to change my diet. Andre (Iguodala) was in my ear for two years about it. I finally listened to him and it paid off."

Looney will become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Although the Warriors declined the option, the 22-year old could return to Golden State -- but the max amount the Warriors can offer him is $2.3 million.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller