Why the Warriors should not rest Durant vs Blazers if he's fully healthy

Why the Warriors should not rest Durant vs Blazers if he's fully healthy

If he’s healthy, Kevin Durant has to play. If there are no physical restrictions or associated risks, he should be on the court for what remains of the Warriors’ first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

And, yes, this goes against the sentiment that has become trendy in recent days.

Do the Warriors, with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, need Durant to close out Portland? No. Not in the least. The absence of starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who possibly could miss the entire series, is an opening for a Warriors sweep.

Which is why it has become fashionable to suggest they should confine Durant to the sideline for Game 3 Saturday and even Game 4 on Monday. Why put him on the court for Game 3 if you won Game 4 by 29 points?

Here’s why: Durant wants to be out there. If his left calf strain is fully recovered, he should be out there.

Durant’s mentality, and he has conveyed this many times, is one of devotion to the game. Basketball is his greatest passion, and it’s also his identity. He has many interests beyond the game -- the game does not begin to define his humanity -- but the essence of Kevin Durant is most visible when he’s doing his thing on the court.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been around Durant long enough to fully comprehend this. He sees Durant’s work ethic, sees the attention he devotes to details and feels his love affair with the game.

“If he's ready to play, he's going to play,” Kerr said after a 110-81 victory in Game 2 at Oracle Arena. “But if there's any question, then we won't play him.”

If he’s ready is the smart play. Even if the Warriors go up to Portland and win Game 3 by 40 points without Durant, he should play in Game 4 if he is medically cleared.

You have to consider Durant’s status in the game. He is, by any reasonable and rational standard, one of the top five players on earth. Some have questioned his competitive instincts. Others have wondered if he possesses the mental toughness and profound ruthlessness often required to become a champion.

He wants to prove the doubters wrong. He wants this postseason, with this team, to be his reply to any and all questions.

So if he’s able, he should play. Has to play. You don’t take away a singer’s microphone because of yesterday’s headache, or because the show can be great regardless of his or her presence. It cheats principle. And it sends a wayward message.

It tells the Warriors that Durant is a luxury item, and that’s the last thing they want or need to hear.

It tells Durant the same thing, and also implies that his desires are irrelevant.

It would be foolish for the Warriors to go down this road, no matter what kind of chatter is taking place outside their walls.

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

OAKLAND -- The words came dribbling out slowly, ruefully and with more than a trace of despair.

JaVale McGee, the 7-foot accidental villain, could barely speak about his role Friday night in the moment that left the Warriors pleading for mercy while their fans were screaming at the sky.

Stephen Curry, returning to the lineup after a six-game absence due to a right ankle sprain, lasted 25 minutes before sustaining another injury, this one a sprain to his left MCL. The two-time MVP will undergo an MRI test Saturday.

“I pray to God,” McGee said, “that nothing’s wrong with him.”

The injury occurred with 3:09 left in the third quarter. After biting on a pump fake by Atlanta forward Mike Muscala, McGee wound up tumbling backward, with his 270 pounds landing directly at the front Curry legs. Curry immediately started limping away, with the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena gasping in horror.

“I was trying to block a shot,” McGee said beneath a vacant stare, “and I ran into him.”

That’s the kind of month it has been for the Warriors. All four of their All-Stars have been knocked out of action by an array of injuries.

Curry went down March 8 after tweaking his surgically repaired right ankle. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were injured March 11 at Minnesota, Durant sustaining a rib cartilage injury after taking a elbow from 7-foot Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Thompson spraining his right thumb after making contact with Minnesota point guard Jeff Teague.

Draymond Green began the next week as the team’s only healthy All-Star, a distinction that lasted eight days before he was struck down with a pelvic contusion Monday night in San Antonio.

“It’s like a juju or something on us,” McGee said. “I’ve never been part of a team where everybody just got injured, especially the starters. It’s kind of scary to tell the truth.”

Durant, Thompson and Green were unavailable Friday night, which is why Curry’s return was so encouraging. After a 2-point first quarter during which he went 1-of-6 from the floor, Curry found his stroke and over his next 16 minutes scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Then came the most frightening moment of the night, throwing a massive damper on a 106-94 victory.

“I assumed it was his ankle when he came out hobbling and I found it was his knee,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We will see what the MRI says tomorrow.

“There is not a whole lot we can do or predict. It’s kind of a strange, cruel twist of fate. He rehabs his ankle for the last couple of weeks and gets that strong and the knee goes. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed.”

The Warriors came out of the All-Star break fairly healthy and ready to make a run at the No. 1 overall seed. They’ve achieved it in each of the last three seasons, coming away with two championships.

Hopes of getting there this season have disappeared under a pile of injuries, all of them coming over the last 16 days. As of late Friday night, there was no knowing how serious Curry’s injury is, or how long he might be out.

What’s known is that it was another in a succession of frightful moments.

“It’s a little somber in there,” Kerr said of the locker room. “Everybody feels for Steph. But it’s more a case of just keep going and keep pushing forward. We’ll come into tomorrow, short practice and get ready for Utah.”

That’s at the request of the schedule. That’s a dose of NBA reality on a grim night.

McGee didn’t seem ready for that. He was feeling awful about the entire episode.

“I can’t describe it,” he said of the play that followed everyone into the night. “Everybody has a TV. I fell into him and . . . I know y’all (reporters) don’t think I’m standing here like, ‘Yes, I fell into him.’

“That’s a star player. Of course, we don’t want him to be injured, especially after he came back. So I feel very bad for the fact that I was a part of that.”

McGee said he hopes Curry is out no more than a couple games.

The Warriors would be ever so pleased if it’s a couple weeks. They want to be whole for the postseason,, the only season by which they will be measured and a season that, on this night, nobody was of a mood to visualize.

Curry limps to locker room with left MCL sprain, does not return vs Hawks

Curry limps to locker room with left MCL sprain, does not return vs Hawks

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry lasted 25 minutes Friday night before limping out of another game.

He was diagnosed with a sprained left MCL and did not return after sustaining the injury.

Curry came up limping after center JaVale McGee, leaping for a rebound, tumbled backward into his lower legs with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter of the Warriors-Hawks game at Oracle Arena.

Immediately, the sellout crowd let out a collective groan.

Curry, his face a mask of dejection, headed for the bench, where he was examined by Warriors physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane. The two then headed into the locker room.

Curry scored a team-high 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before leaving the game. This was his first appearance since March 8, when he tweaked his surgically repaired right ankle, causing him to miss six games.

Curry has missed 21 of the team’s 71 games. He will undergo an MRI on Saturday, and his status beyond that is yet to be determined. 

This story is being updated.