The Golden State Warriors' road back to the NBA Finals may have just hit their most significant speed bump yet.
The Warriors' leading scorer and rebounder, Kevin Durant, will be out at least four weeks for the Golden State Warriors, the team announced this morning, following a left knee injury last night against the Washington Wizards. Durant suffered the injury one minute into the game when Warriors center Zaza Pachulia fell into Durant's leg.
According to the Warriors, Durant underwent an MRI last night at MedStar Washington Hospital in the DC area, and was diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise. Durant will be re-evaluated in four weeks, and while the team says there is no timetable for his return, they also said a return this season has not been ruled out.
Injury Update: Kevin Durant suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise.— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) March 1, 2017
Full details below. pic.twitter.com/t3JkVnMmqa
Durant leads the team in scoring (25.3 points per game), free throw makes (5.5) and attempts (6.3) per game, rebounding (8.2 rpg) and blocks (1.6 bpg).
Golden State added Durant in the offseason in the biggest move of the summer, signing him to a two-year deal (which has an opt-out this summer) as the high-powered Warriors added the 2013-14 Kia MVP. Entering last night, Durant had appeared in 58 of 59 games for the Warriors, missing last Saturday's date against the Brooklyn Nets with a left hand contusion.
For the Warriors, Durant's injury could not have come at a worse time. They are entering a portion of their schedule that head coach Steve Kerr called "the most insane schedule I've ever seen in all my years in the NBA." The 50-10 Warriors currently have the best record in the NBA, and with 22 games remaining hold a four game lead over the San Antonio Spurs (45-13) for the top spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Durant was injured when teammate Zaza Pachulia fell backwards into his left leg while grappling with Wizards center Marcin Gortat less than a minute into the first quarter. He hobbled through two more possessions before leaving for good.
Kevin Durant expected back for the postseason, multiple sources told ESPN. “It’s not as bad as it looked,” one source said.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 1, 2017
Kevin Durant hasn't been ruled out that he could return to the court before the end of the regular season.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) March 1, 2017
All in all, good news for Kevin Durant and Warriors, team says: Sprained MCL, bone bruise. He will be re-evaluated in a month.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 1, 2017
Durant will be re-evaluated in four weeks. No timetable for return, but possible he could return before the end of the regular season. (2/2)— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) March 1, 2017
With unknown status of Durant, race for #1 seed gains added importance. Get homecourt, avoid Rockets. Update: pic.twitter.com/lwjsI6XkSM— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 1, 2017
The Durant MRI results seem to be good news for the Warriors. Re-evaluated doesn't mean will return. But appears his season isn't over.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 1, 2017
Last season the Warriors finished with an NBA-record 73 wins, but after defeating Durant and the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, lost in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who overcame a 3-1 deficit.
The reaction from the Warriors' camp over Durant's injury was mostly one of relief the injury was not worse, writes Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com:
In a conference call Wednesday, Warriors GM Bob Myers eventually conceded that the diagnosis was “good news,” albeit in a tepid, roundabout way.
“I know there were some reports about what it might have been, but it’s hard in this era,” Myers said. “No medical decision should be made in half an hour or an hour, but I understand the desire to get information when something like this occurs. So you try to be a little patient. In light of what some said what it might have been, yes.”
Myers then added that, absent last night’s fears, it is of course bad news to miss an MVP-level player for an indeterminate amount of time.
“Is it good news to miss one of your players with an injury like this? No, that’s not good news," Myers said. "But I guess it could be worse, I suppose.”
Of the timetable, Myers emphasized, “At this time it’s just speculation to guess when that is. He’ll heal when his body heals.”
Myers spoke to a time frame Tuesday night when a different diagnosis was expected, saying, “Yes, there was a moment where there was a potential different diagnosis, but that didn’t last too long and most of it was, 'Let’s get another image to make sure we have a clear look at this.' And that’s what determined the final diagnosis as I was told.”
Myers elaborated on those frightful moments: “I don’t know if it was 10, 15 minutes. To be clear, the messaging was, the MRI is somewhat equivocal, let’s get some better imaging. It could be A or B, but nobody was comfortable making a diagnosis until we saw a clearer image. At least the doctors felt that way of his CT scan. And the reason that was relevant or is relevant is when you’re dealing with a bone bruise which is also referenced on the (press release), as what he has, the CT scan gives you much more clarity on a bone injury or a bone bruise, much more than an MRI. So that’s where the MCL sprain showed up, but we needed to get more specificity in that period.”
He added that the CT scan gave the final verdict, saying, “In that period there was speculation as to what it might or might not be, but ultimately the CT scan cleared up any of the vagueness and that’s the diagnosis.”
Based on Myers' comments and the amount of time left in the season, the Warriors aren’t out of the woods in regards to Durant. However, still needing to get out of the woods is preferable to some of the outcomes feared Tuesday night.