Kevin Durant has healed faster than we ever thought possible. After the Warriors announced earlier this week that he would be returning to practice — with an eye towards getting him back on the court before the end of the regular season — the main question was just when exactly he would make his return.
I guessed (along with many others) that the big date would end up being April 8th, as the Warriors began a three game home stand to close out the regular season.
My guess for Durant’s heralded return? Saturday, April 8th, at home against the Pelicans. The Pelicans have been struggling off and on since the DeMarcus Cousins trade. The Jazz are no pushovers, but then you have the lowly Lakers to close out the season. Whereas in a normal season — where the team isn’t hurtling towards 73 wins, and where everyone is already healthy — I bet you’d see Steve Kerr sit his regulars for those last three games to ensure they were rested for the playoff push.
Now, we seemingly have confirmation of this exact plan.
The Golden State Warriors have targeted Saturday night's home game against the New Orleans Pelicans as the return date for Kevin Durant provided that the All-Star forward experiences no setbacks in the final stages of his recovery from a sprained left knee, league sources told ESPN.
Durant, 28, has begun to play in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 contact situations with teammates in addition to his individual workouts since the club announced Wednesday that he has "made very good progress" in his recovery.
Steve Kerr also confirmed that whenever Durant returns, he will in fact be placed right into the starting lineup, as opposed to coming off the bench. Again, if this were some random stretch of the regular season, perhaps you’d see Kerr ease him back in with the second unit. But if does indeed come back on April 8th, that’s only three game in which to, A.) get back in game shape, and, B.) regain the chemistry with his fellow starters.
As Kerr said, he’s not worried about incorporating Durant back into the schemes, nor is he worried about Durant fouling up this amazing flow and chemistry that the team has developed since he went down with injury four weeks ago.
"Hopefully we can get him in for a couple of regular-season games," Kerr told reporters Sunday while also confirming that Durant will play under a minutes restriction when he comes back after missing the past 17 games. "We'll see how it goes. We'll see what the training staff says. I'm not too worried about incorporating him because he's been with us all season and fit right in from the beginning. So whenever he gets back, we'll plug him back in there and watch his minutes."
"That's the main thing," Kerr added, "just watching him physically. I'm not worried about incorporating him into our schemes and all that stuff."
So, we’ll see. The Warriors have been playing some of their best, most exciting ball of the season. Will Durant step back in and catapult them towards a potential championship? Or will his return gum up the works and complicate an engine that is running at top speed right now?
It’s stupid to think the team doesn’t need him. I realize I am stupid for saying this. But, hey, I’m a stupid, stupid man. Y’all can back me up in this one. You’ve seen me in action for the past little while now.
As we covered in our recent podcast, Durant’s return will be a little bit complicated. In his absence, Stephen Curry has returned to his world-ending-alien ways. The team has won a crap ton of games in a row. They look arrogant and bouncy again. All we can hope is that Durant’s return only bolsters that joyful arrogance, and that they collectively cruise right on down to a second Larry O’Brien trophy in three years.