Warriors

Durant's love for basketball shines bright in his highly anticipated return

Durant's love for basketball shines bright in his highly anticipated return

OAKLAND -- It was clear in the days and hours before tipoff and just as apparent nearly an hour after the final horn Saturday night that Kevin Durant needed this.

He craved the bumping and grinding and swishing, all the basketball activities that remind him both of how much he loves the game and of the fun he missed out on while his knee was healing.

His knee is fine now and he could hardly wait to prove it, needing all of 35 seconds into the Warriors-Pelicans game to sprint along the baseline and swoop past 7-foot-2 New Orleans center Alexis Ajinca for a filthy reverse dunk that sent the Oracle Arena crowd into a spasm of euphoria.

Durant was back, just as they remembered him.

“If you get a dunk the first play of the game . . . no matter how long you’ve been out, that feels good,” Durant said after a 123-101 victory.

Durant finished with 16 points, a team-high 10 rebounds and six assists. He played 31 minutes, also a team-high and certainly more than might be reasonably expected after missing almost six weeks with a sprained left knee and bruised tibia.

Yet Durant wanted more, and he tried to persuade coach Steve Kerr into additional playing time.

“Kevin wants to play 48 minutes every night, so we have to tell him he’s not allowed to do that,” Kerr said. “Thirty-one was about as high as I could have imagined going with him.”

Durant understood this decision, even if a part of him wasn’t really feeling it.

“I felt like I could keep playing,” he said. “But obviously, we’ve got the 1-seed locked up. And we’re going into the playoffs with a good rhythm.

“But I haven’t played in 20 games, so I definitely wanted to be out there longer.

“But coach understands the big picture.”

The “big picture” is a direct reference to the playoffs, which begin next weekend. The Warriors have two more regular-season games before launching into what they anticipate will be a two-month pursuit.

Getting to the top, should the Warriors get there, will require superlative efforts from Durant, as well as the many teammates who after initially being staggered by his loss, losing five of seven, had bounced back to win 13 in a row before Durant rejoined them for the 14th straight Saturday night.

“It sure was good to see him back out there,” Klay Thompson said.

“He’s been anxious for a couple weeks now, just talking about trying to get back out there,” Draymond Green said. “He’s been working extremely hard. To come back that fast from the sprain that he came back from, and the bone bruise . . . shows a lot about how hard he worked.”

As relieved as Durant is to be rejoining his teammates for this endeavor, he may have been even more enthusiastic about some of the simple things he was forced to go without as he rested and rehabilitated.

“I felt good putting my jersey on, running out with the team, going through the layup lines, it just felt normal again,” he said.

“I’m a basketball player. I love playing basketball. That’s my favorite thing to do. So to feel like I’m a part of the team and feel like I’m a part of this energy we have, feels great.”

Andrew Bogut's agent had no idea center was talking to Warriors about return

Andrew Bogut's agent had no idea center was talking to Warriors about return

When rumors around Andrew Bogut's potential return to the Warriors began to circulate, many people were caught entirely off guard.

But it wasn't just fans and analysts who were surprised the 2005 No. 1 overall pick would be returning to help his former team capture another title. 

Bogut's agent apparently had no idea the veteran center and the Warriors had been discussing a return to the Bay Area.

“Funny enough, my agent didn’t even know,” Bogut told The Athletic's Ethan Strauss. “I told my agent, ‘Hey I’m talking to the Warriors,’ and he was like, ‘What the f***? Do they know I’m your agent? Why don’t they call me?’”

The 34-year-old last played for the Warriors during the 2015-16 season and has been out of the NBA since January of 2018.

[RELATED: Steph explains why final regular season games are very important to Warriors]

In the four games since his return to the two-time defending champions, Bogut is averaging 5.3 points and 6.2 rebounds while looking slimmer and more athletic, something he attributes to drinking more beer and having a less rigorous schedule while being back home in Australia. 

The unexpected reunion has been a success so far. Perhaps when Bogut officially hangs up his sneakers he can start a second career as an agent.

It's worked out so far.

Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffers gruesome leg injury vs. Nets

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USATSI

Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffers gruesome leg injury vs. Nets

Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a horrible, horrible injury during Monday night's game against the Nets.

If you watched it live or have watched a replay, you know how brutal it was. If you haven't watched the video, DON'T.

Just think Gordon Hayward, Kevin Ware, Paul George and Shaun Livingston.

It was that bad.

Shortly after midnight, the Blazers announced that Nurkic suffered a compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula, and that there is no timetable for his return.

Nurkic was having a monster game at the time of the injury, dropping in 32 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, and the Blazers beat the Nets in double overtime, but neither matters at this point.

Losing Nurkic is another huge blow for the Blazers, who currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference. They are already playing without shooting guard CJ McCollum, who strained his popliteus muscle in his left knee.

Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins was among the current and former players to send their thoughts and prayers to Nurkic.