The All-Star forward briefly practiced Sunday, setting up a possible return for Monday’s Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. Durant, who is officially listed as questionable after missing Golden State’s past nine games after suffering a strained right calf on May 8, watched as Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors seized command of the series by winning Games 3 and 4 in Oakland, California.
“He’s going to practice with us and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ll gauge it from there. What he’s going to do today he hasn’t done (before). He’s doing more today and then we’ll know more after that.”
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) June 10, 2019
Word of Durant’s progress, and his possible return, comes after days filled with murky updates about his health and reports that the Warriors were growing frustrated with his continued absence. As Durant’s return timetable seemed to shift between Games 3 and 4, Kerr said that Durant hadn’t suffered a setback but added that the team would be more tight-lipped about its injury updates to prevent mixed signals.
Durant, who has been around the Warriors and traveled with them throughout the Finals, has not addressed the media during the series and did not take questions Sunday. In the vacuum created by his injury and silence, Durant’s status as an upcoming free agent and months of rumors about a possible offseason departure have led outsiders to speculate about his motivations.
Before Game 4, he posted a cryptic horoscope message to his Instagram account. “False information doesn’t become true just because it’s repeated,” the message read.
Kevin Durant just posted this on his Instagram story…
— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) June 7, 2019
There’s no question the two-time Finals MVP will be of great use if and when he returns, even if he’s in a limited state. Golden State’s rhythm and confidence have been hampered by injuries, with Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala all playing through various ailments. Stephen Curry began to show signs of exhaustion during Game 4, as the Warriors scored just 92 points, their lowest total of the postseason, and struggled to contain Leonard, who notched 36 points.
“We made a lot of defensive mistakes that seemed borne from the frustration and maybe fatigue,” Kerr said. “We’re playing guys heavy minutes and all that stuff. That’s why I’m pleased that there will be two (off) days before (Game 5) and the next couple after that, if we can keep extending the series. As we get healthier and have some time to heal and rest, I like our chances.”
Durant is averaging 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in the playoffs, and he was sensational in the Warriors’ opening-round victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The 2014 MVP seemed poised to stake his claim as the best player in basketball, only to suffer a noncontact leg injury during Game 5 of a second-round series against the Houston Rockets.
A Durant return would ease Curry’s burden, rebalance Golden State’s offense, give Kerr an isolation scoring threat to help unlock Toronto’s defense, and provide a long defensive option against Leonard or Pascal Siakam. On an even more basic level, Durant would also help fill minutes. Kerr has had to rely on backup forwards Alfonzo McKinnie and Jonas Jerebko, who have been badly overmatched against the Raptors.
Jay Williams, who had dinner with Kevin Durant last night, said on Get Up this morning he “would be shocked” if KD doesn’t play tonight.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) June 10, 2019
“It’s just having another powerful weapon out there that can do some very dynamic things on the floor,” Curry said. “He’s been in plenty of Finals and has played well. No matter what percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective.”
The Warriors are seeking to join the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers as the only teams in NBA history to win a title after facing a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. Of course, it was the Warriors who sacrificed that 3-1 lead three years ago. That same year, they dug out of a 3-1 hole against Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder to win the Western Conference finals.
While Toronto has been the healthier, steadier and more impressive team throughout this series, Thompson allowed himself to dream about the possibility of a Durant-led comeback.
“I feel for Kevin,” Thompson said. “I know what type of competitor he is. We obviously miss him out there and he’s propelled us to two championships in the last two years. It would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.”