NBA rumors: Kevin Durant expected to rejoin Warriors during NBA Finals


Kevin Durant hasn't played for three weeks because of a calf injury, leading some to speculate whether or not he's actually out for the season.

That reportedly isn't the case, and it's great news for the Warriors, who are in unfamiliar territory after dropping Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night by virtue of a 118-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Durant is expected to rejoin the team midway through the NBA Finals, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported Friday, citing sources. Haynes wrote "there's some optimism" in the organization that Durant could be back for Game 3 on Wednesday in Oakland, but Game 4 on Friday is "the most logical option."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that Durant had been cleared to resume individual on-court basketball activities, but Haynes reported the star forward already started his workouts earlier in the week.

Prior to his injury. Durant had been dominant in the playoffs, averaging 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 11 games, before straining his right calf during Game 5 of the Warriors' NBA playoff second-round series against the Houston Rockets.

The Warriors didn't miss a beat during the first five games without Durant in the lineup. Steph Curry's second-half explosion in Game 6 against the Rockets eliminated James Harden and Co., and the Portland Trail Blazers provided little resistance in the Western Conference finals.

But, as the Raptors proved Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena, they are an entirely different animal.

Toronto's lengthy defense swarmed Steph Curry and Klay Thompson from the opening tip, forcing the Warriors' duo inside the arc and refusing to give them open looks from any distance. Durant's absence leaves Golden State without the safety valve the team has enjoyed for the past three seasons. When things start to break down offensively for the Warriors, they could always throw the ball to Durant on the wing and let him get them a bucket to calm things down. 

With the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP in street clothes, the Dubs, who got little out of Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green in Game 1, were forced to rely on their collection of role players to take big shots down the stretch in Game 1.  While Curry (34 points) and Thompson (21) were still able to get theirs, Green (10) was the only other Warrior to score in double figures. If that continues Sunday night in Game 2, the Warriors will be in a world of trouble.

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The championship-tested Warriors remain confident despite their Game 1 loss. If Durant returns and plays at the same level he was at prior to his injury, then there's no reason for the two-time defending champions to be worried.

If Durant is less than 100 percent, though, things could get dicey.

After playing a below-average Cleveland Cavaliers team during the last two Finals, the Warriors will finally be tested by Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors. And despite all the pre-Game 1 talking points, Golden State needs KD.

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