OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant had his moments of feeling down, unable to play the sport he loves while watching his teammates initially struggle then, later, shine without him.
Durant returned to practice Friday and experienced no issues with his left knee, so he is set to play against New Orleans in his return from injury after more than a month on the sidelines.
On Saturday, the Warriors announced Durant will play Saturday night, and two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry will miss the game with a bruised left knee.
“I had to be patient,” he said. “It definitely tests your patience. It’s about perseverance at the end of the day. Freak injury, freak accident. I could have hung my head over it but I stayed positive and knew at some point I’d get better. The help of the training staff, they did an unbelievable job keeping me sane for these past five weeks. A few days I went over the deep end but that’s just a part of it. But they did a great job of every single day just chipping away.”
Durant has been sidelined since he sprained the MCL in his knee and suffered a tibia bone bruise Feb. 28 at Washington but Golden State hoped all along to have KD back before the regular season ended – and now the Warriors are riding a 13-game winning streak and have secured the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.
Coach Steve Kerr said Durant, who scrimmaged in a 5-on-5 situation, has no minute restrictions because his knee ligament is fully healed. He went right at Steve Nash in some individual work after practice ended.
Kerr reiterated he will start Durant and take him out at signs he is tiring, and he spoke to Matt Barnes and Patrick McCaw about their roles changing.
“I don’t have a number on the minutes played, it’s more on how it feels for him and fatigue,” said Kerr, who mentioned three “meaningless” games being “perfect for him to get three games before the playoffs start, to get his conditioning, his timing, his rhythm.”
KD remained optimistic his knee would respond and return to full strength. He wouldn’t say whether he plans to wear a brace or protective sleeve.
“I knew it would get there at some point. I didn’t look at it as a career-threatening injury. I knew that was something I could overcome,” he said. “So I was positive the whole time and I’m glad it’s healed and getting better. Obviously, when you get banged up in that area, it’s going to take you some time for you mentally to feel like everything’s all right, so today was one of those days where I went out there and played, practiced with the guys and I felt normal.”
The Warriors are ready to work him back in as they chase the championship that he was acquired to help them win.
“Each day it got better. So I just tried to focus on each day,” Durant said. “Obviously I wanted to be out there and playing. That’s my favorite thing to do is to play basketball. To be away was different and tough but I looked at the big picture. I figured that at some point I would get better. That day is here, and I’m thankful.”