TORONTO — One by one, the Warriors made their way onto the court Thursday morning for their final preparation for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, most in sweats and with headphones tuning out distractions.
The one player who didn’t pass by was Kevin Durant, who remained in the trainers’ room, working alone after an early session on the court before the rest of the Warriors even arrived at ScotiaBank Arena.
Out of sight and out of action, he was not out of mind.
Durant recently has made progress in his recovery from a calf strain, getting back to on-court work. The Warriors did activate DeMarcus Cousins for Game 1 after six weeks on the sideline (he played four minutes in the first half), but whether Durant will play in this series — or ever again for the Warriors — remains a mystery.
“He was on the court yesterday,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I believe he was on the court this morning as well. Then he’s in the training room, he’s getting all kinds of treatment, strength, conditioning stuff. So the next step would be to practice with the team. We don’t know when that’s going to be. He’ll continue with the individual workouts, ramping that up as our training staff sees fit.
“It’s tough. He’s in the training room while the team is out on the floor. It’s a lonely feeling, especially in the Finals, because this is what it’s about. This is what everybody works for, trains for. To the point when he got hurt, he was just having a monster playoffs. So I know this is really difficult for him.
“Injuries are a part of it. You have DeMarcus, who missed a whole year with the Achilles, and he’s been out the last six, seven weeks. I feel bad for him. I’m happy that he’s back, but I feel badly for him because you want to be in the Finals, you want to be in the best shape and on top of your game that you can possibly be. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s not always perfect. So both guys are just trying to adapt and adjust and do what they can.”
Durant undoubtedly is a huge part of the Warriors’ success. He was averaging 34.2 points in the playoffs before getting hurt in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Just how good the Warriors are without Durant remains a question mark. They swept Portland in the conference finals without him. Stephen Curry, who narrowly edged Durant in points per game during the regular season, erupted and Draymond Green took charge of the team again.
“Just keep doing what we have been doing,” Curry said Wednesday. “Doing it by committee. We have had some amazing contributions from everybody on the bench that’s come in and produced for us on both ends of the floor. So we’re going to have to play smart. Myself, stay out of foul trouble. Draymond, continue dominating both sides of the floor. Just play with confidence and play fast, play loose and play disciplined. We know what we’re capable of. And when [Durant] does come back, we’ll be able to transition and hopefully elevate our game even more. So great opportunity for us no matter who is playing.”
As speculation rises about Durant’s future with free agency looming just a month away, even if he is limited to working out on his own at the moment, he has remained involved with the team. After remaining behind for the road games after his injury, he traveled to Toronto with the Warriors.
“He’s been helping with the scouting report, what kind of coverage to be running and the X’s-and-O’s stuff,” backup big man Kevon Looney said. “We know he wants to be out there really bad and is working as hard as he can to get back. We’re going out there to compete for him.”
“It’s good to have Kevin here,” Kerr said. “He’s such a huge part of our team. The guys are all pulling for him. It’s such a privilege to be here, to play in the NBA Finals. For all these guys, you grow up dreaming about this. So you want everybody healthy and to have an opportunity. I think more than anything, we all just want Kevin to be healthy and come back and enjoy at least part of the series. He’s also pretty good, so it wouldn’t hurt to have him back.”
Durant is progressing from a strained calf muscle, and there are still questions about how good the Warriors are without him.