When Kevin Durant limped off the court on May 8, there were concerns that his strained calf could end the Warriors’ quest for a third straight NBA title and maybe even knock them out in the second round.
Golden State pulled out Game 5 against the Rockets that night and hasn’t lost since, building a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors have reverted back to a brand of basketball that was successful before Durant arrived, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all taking expanded roles on offense.
That’s important not only for the rest of the playoffs, but maybe for next season as rumors continue that Durant will leave for the Knicks or possibly somewhere else this summer. Although the Warriors finally have full Bird rights on Durant and can offer him more than anyone else, the challenge of succeeding in a new situation might be more important to him than money.
Although it won’t be easy to replace 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, Golden State would essentially go back to the same team that won a title and then 73 games in the two seasons before Durant arrived. Curry has reverted to his MVP form since Durant’s injury, and Thompson and Green have been better as well with more shots available.
There has been talk that the Warriors are better without Durant, but Sam Amick of The Athletic dismisses that as a ridiculous notion. He points out that Durant has been the MVP of the last two NBA Finals and that the team didn’t reach a dynasty level until Durant arrived.
Durant’s teammates don’t believe it either.
“I think everybody in this organization knows that we’re a better team with Kevin,” Quinn Cook told Amick after Thursday’s game. “… He’s been a superstar since he’s been in the league, so there’s a different narrative every day. I think he’s used to that. (But) he has a relationship with everybody on the team, so I think he knows how we all feel about him. … Everybody has to step up in his absence. That’s really the biggest thing. Everybody has been stepping up because we know we don’t have the best player on our team.”
We want to get your opinion on how the Warriors will survive without Durant — during the rest of the playoffs if he can’t return and next season if he signs somewhere else. Please leave your answers in the space below.