TORONTO — The sand quickly is running out of the hourglass that is the Warriors’ dynasty, but Kevin Durant was cleared at long last to practice on Sunday and is listed as questionable for Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.
The Raptors hold a 3-1 lead and are poised to celebrate a title with all of Canada if they win, but two-time Finals MVP Durant has the ability to derail those plans if his injured calf holds up.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the announcement before practice that Durant would join his teammates on the court for the first time since suffering what originally was described as a mild right calf strain in Game 5 of the Warriors’ second-round series against Houston on May 8.
“He’s going to practice with us today, and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players,” Kerr said. “We’ll gauge it from there.”
Asked if he was more optimistic about Durant’s return, Kerr said, “Yeah, because what he’s going to do today he hasn’t done. He’s doing more today and then we’ll know more after that.”
Durant reportedly was among the first to leave an abbreviated workout and returned to the locker room with ice taped to his calf but was walking without a limp. So his game-time status remains uncertain at a time when Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that “irritation grew” within the Warriors’ locker room after their Game 4 loss because there was hope that Durant would return to help his injury-plagued team in that game.
Before Game 4, Kerr said he was going to limit his comments about Durant because things had gone “haywire,” an apparent reference to speculation about whether Durant might be saving himself from the risk of further injury before entering free agency this summer. Klay Thompson defended Durant on that score.
“I feel for Kevin,” he said. “I know what type of competitor he is, and we obviously miss him dearly. We just have to do everything in our will power to help him get back. If that’s win a game and be patient, then we’ve got to do that. It’s pretty easy to realize we obviously miss him out there. He’s propelled us to two championships in the last two years. So it would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.”
Thompson missed Game 3 with a hamstring injury but scored 28 points in Game 4. Kevon Looney returned from a fractured collarbone that was expected to keep him out of the series and also played well.
“You just got to manage the injury,” Thompson said. “It’s tough. Kevin’s is much more serious than all of ours, and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.”
Without Durant, the Warriors have been forced to use Alfonso McKinnie and Jonas Jerebko to help defend the likes of big men Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. All of them have taken advantage.
Draymond Green, the primary defender on Leonard, said Durant’s return to practice “means he’s taking steps in the right direction.” Sounding a note of skepticism, he added, “We’ll see what that means tomorrow. Hopefully, it means he’s able to play and give whatever he can to the team.”
Stephen Curry, who has carried much of the offensive load, also expressed hope. “It’s just having another powerful weapon out there that can do some dynamic things on the floor,” he said. “No matter what percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective out there.”