CHICAGO – If there’s any team that can endure the loss of a player of Kevin Durant’s caliber, it’s the Golden State Warriors.
No one’s feeling sorry for them after Wednesday’s news that Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprainand a tibial bone bruise that will keep him out at least four weeks.
The Warriors still have the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the West, but their margin for error just got smaller. It also increases the pressure on two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry. His numbers are down as a result of incorporating Durant’s 25.3 points and nearly 17 shots per game into the Warriors’ offense. Curry’s averaging a shade under 25 points after averaging more than 30 last season.
Though there will be an adjustment to playing without Durant, Curry admitted there was a sense of relief that their prized offseason acquisition might return for the end of the regular season.
“Anytime you have a guy go down, knowing how tough KD is when he knows he can’t play or stay in the game, you have him in your thoughts,” Curry said. “Definitely there was a sense of relief that he’ll be able to come back at some point down the stretch of the season, and obviously our job now is to stay being us.”
The hard part is that Durant was part of the Warriors’ top-four lineups, according to stats from NBA.com. What’s more, the Warriors’ offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) was 116.9 with Durant on the court and 107.4 with him off of it.
There’s also been sizable roster turnover from this year’s outfit compared to last year’s 73-win team. Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Leandro Barbosa are all gone while Durant, Matt Barnes, JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia are the new additions. You could do worse than Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green as basketball holdovers.
“Obviously it’s tough with (Durant) going down,” Green said. “You have to do it by committee. It’s not just going to be any one guy that can come and bring us 26 points and eight rebounds per game. Multiple guys just have to step up and some guys’ minutes will increase. Maybe the starters’ minutes will increase. Who knows? Other guys just got to be ready to step up.”
Despite the loss, Curry wasn’t ready to sound the alarm.
“It’s good news on one hand because it looked bad, the way it had kind of bent,” Curry said. “We’ll be fine, finish out however long he’s out, just next man up mentality but obviously it’ll be tough to replace a guy like KD.”
The Warriors officially announced the signing of veteran swingman Matt Barnes on Thursday, but that’s hardly an adequate replacement. Fortunately for the Warriors, their roster is loaded with talent and should be able to hold down the fort.