So far, so good on Kevin Durant’s recovery from a sprained medial collateral ligament and tibial bone bruise in his left knee, the Golden State Warriors announced on Wednesday — and that means it’s possible we could see the former NBA Most Valuable Player return to the court before the end of the 2016-17 regular season on April 12.
Kevin has made very good progress since suffering the injury four weeks ago in Washington. He has not experienced any setbacks to date and has progressed as well as could be expected. At this point, he is being incorporated into non-contact basketball drills — shooting, running and jumping — and the plan is to intensity his level of movement over the next several days, which will include more explosive cutting and lateral maneuvers. His eventual return to contact drills and practice will be predicated upon his return to the increased intensity of his workouts, and a return to game action prior to the end of the regular season remains a possibility. He will be re-evaluated again in the next 7-10 days.
The most likely comeback window for Durant, as long as his progress persists, is Golden State's final three home games, league sources say.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) March 29, 2017
Durant suffered the left knee injury early in the Warriors’ Feb. 28 meeting with the Washington Wizards, interrupting an MVP-consideration-worthy maiden season by the Bay in which he was averaging a team-leading 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, to go with 4.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 33.6 minutes a night. After initially stumbling to five losses in seven games without Durant, the Warriors have since righted the ship, winning eight straight to reach the 60-win mark for the third consecutive season, thanks to the offensive exploits of guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, a cranked-up defensive intensity led by power forward Draymond Green, and timely contributions by a corps of reserves led by versatile veteran Andre Iguodala.
Since Durant’s injury, the Warriors’ offensive effectiveness has tailed off some, with Golden State averaging 108.4 points per 100 possessions over the past 15 games compared to a scintillating 114.1 points-per-100 prior to KD going on the shelf. Yet they still boast the league’s best “net rating” (whether you outscore your opponent over the course of 100 possessions, or vice versa, which accounts for the different paces at which different teams play) during that stretch, because they’ve been locking down the opposition to the tune of just 99.8 points-per-100 allowed, second in the NBA since Durant’s injury to only the San Antonio Spurs — the team that trails Golden State in the race for the West’s No. 1 seed, and that the Warriors will face in Texas in the main event of the NBA’s Wednesday night slate.
It’s not necessarily surprising or new information that Durant’s recovery is going according to plan. ESPN’s Chris Haynes and Marc Stein reported as much last week, and reporters have been sharing clips of Durant getting work in before Warriors games for the last week or so …
Another clip of Durant getting in work here in Houston pic.twitter.com/CNOenwhO6p
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) March 28, 2017
… but it’s a positive development for the Dubs all the same.
No matter which team winds up winning the West’s No. 8 seed, the Warriors would enter that matchup as heavy favorites with or without Durant. But they’ll need KD as close to 100 percent as possible to navigate the tough road ahead through the Western Conference gauntlet and into the NBA Finals. On that score, Wednesday’s not-really-an-update update would seem to fall squarely into the category of “no news is good news” … which could be bad news for teams hoping to knock off the Warriors come the second season.
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