NBA rumors: Kevin Durant expected to rejoin Warriors during NBA Finals


NBA rumors: Kevin Durant expected to rejoin Warriors during NBA Finals

Kevin Durant hasn't played for three weeks because of a calf injury, leading some to speculate whether or not he's actually out for the season.

That reportedly isn't the case, and it's great news for the Warriors, who are in unfamiliar territory after dropping Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night by virtue of a 118-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Durant is expected to rejoin the team midway through the NBA Finals, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported Friday, citing sources. Haynes wrote "there's some optimism" in the organization that Durant could be back for Game 3 on Wednesday in Oakland, but Game 4 on Friday is "the most logical option."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that Durant had been cleared to resume individual on-court basketball activities, but Haynes reported the star forward already started his workouts earlier in the week.

Prior to his injury. Durant had been dominant in the playoffs, averaging 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 11 games, before straining his right calf during Game 5 of the Warriors' NBA playoff second-round series against the Houston Rockets.

The Warriors didn't miss a beat during the first five games without Durant in the lineup. Steph Curry's second-half explosion in Game 6 against the Rockets eliminated James Harden and Co., and the Portland Trail Blazers provided little resistance in the Western Conference finals.

But, as the Raptors proved Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena, they are an entirely different animal.

Toronto's lengthy defense swarmed Steph Curry and Klay Thompson from the opening tip, forcing the Warriors' duo inside the arc and refusing to give them open looks from any distance. Durant's absence leaves Golden State without the safety valve the team has enjoyed for the past three seasons. When things start to break down offensively for the Warriors, they could always throw the ball to Durant on the wing and let him get them a bucket to calm things down. 

With the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP in street clothes, the Dubs, who got little out of Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green in Game 1, were forced to rely on their collection of role players to take big shots down the stretch in Game 1.  While Curry (34 points) and Thompson (21) were still able to get theirs, Green (10) was the only other Warrior to score in double figures. If that continues Sunday night in Game 2, the Warriors will be in a world of trouble.

[RELATED: Why Warriors must recognized Raptors as toughest NBA Finals foe]

The championship-tested Warriors remain confident despite their Game 1 loss. If Durant returns and plays at the same level he was at prior to his injury, then there's no reason for the two-time defending champions to be worried.

If Durant is less than 100 percent, though, things could get dicey.

After playing a below-average Cleveland Cavaliers team during the last two Finals, the Warriors will finally be tested by Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors. And despite all the pre-Game 1 talking points, Golden State needs KD.

Steph Curry fires back after Kevin Durant criticizes Warriors offense

Steph Curry fires back after Kevin Durant criticizes Warriors offense

Kevin Durant has sent some mixed messages about what he wants in his basketball situation.

He was the man in Oklahoma City, co-starring with Russell Westbrook in an offense heavily predicated on isolation basketball. In search of playing a more beautiful game, Durant left OKC in 2016 to join the Warriors and Steve Kerr's ball-movement offense.

After three years and unparalleled success, Durant exited the Bay to head to Brooklyn, signing with the Nets in free agency in July. The two-time NBA Finals MVP discussed his exit from the Warriors in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and he had some critiques of the ball-movement offense. Durant believes the system is limited, and there would come a time in the playoffs where he needed to "go into his bag" to get his own shot because the opposition had figured out how to slow down Kerr's offense.

Curry, who has been almost unstoppable in the Warriors' system, had something to say about Durant's criticism.

"Well, I don't care what plays we ran," Curry told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "We won two championships. And at the end of the day, we had a lotta talent and there was an expectation of us figuring out how to balance all that. And we talked a lot about it throughout the three-year run. It wasn't always perfect, but I think in terms of, you know, the results and what we were able to do on the floor, that kinda speaks for itself. We all wanna play iso-ball at the end of the day in some way, shape or form. But I'd rather have some championships, too."

[RELATED: Steph responds to KD's belief Warriors never accepted him]

It's hard to argue with either point of view. Durant is one of the most talented scorers in NBA history, and was a seamless fit in Kerr's offense. But his isolation game almost is unguardable, so it's understandable why he would want the ball in his hands more. Really, who wouldn't want Durant to have the ball?

But as Curry said, the Warriors' results over the past five seasons speak to the success and potency of their ball-movement offense, one of the reasons the Warriors almost were able to win the 2019 NBA Finals even after Durant ruptured his Achilles. Just turn on the tape, and you can see how effective the offense is, both with and without Durant.

Warriors' Steph Curry plans to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympic Games

Warriors' Steph Curry plans to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympic Games

The year 2020 is going to be different for the USA, and I'm not just talking about the upcoming presidential election.

As you're aware, every A- and B-level star elected not to play for coach Gregg Popovich and Team USA this summer (no offense, Donovan Mitchell). As a result, the Americans sputtered to a seventh-place finish in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. But don't expect the big names to take the same approach to the 2020 Olympic Games.

Steph Curry, for one, is ready to get buckets on the international stage.

"That is the plan, for sure," the Warriors star told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on if he plans to play in Tokyo next summer. "You know, obviously knock on wood, you don't want any injuries or things like that to interfere.

"Definitely wanna go," Curry said. "I've never been on the Olympic team. I've been on two World Cup championship gold-medal teams. But the Olympics is the experience that I want. And next year will hopefully be it."

Team USA is just as excited for Steph to join the squad.

The seventh-place finish was Team USA's worst international showing since its Bronze Medal in the disaster that was the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The Americans have won three straight gold medals since then, buoyed by teams led by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and coach Mike Krzyzewski. With Curry's commitment to the 2020 games, expect other marquee names to line up behind him to lead the Red, White and Blue to another gold medal.

"We're still the best," Curry said. "If we get the guys that are supposed to be there, in terms of, you know, representing us in the Olympic stage and the commitment's been there, and I think it'll be there next year."

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard also said he plans to play in 2020.

[RELATED: Steph responds to KD saying Warriors never accepted him]

With Team USA's latest redemption tour underway, Curry will be tasked with being one of the leaders in getting Team USA back to its rightful place atop the international basketball world.

That's bad news for the rest of the world.