AP photo file: Former Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes, right, goes to the basket over Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Barnes returns to Golden State in light of the Kevin Durant injury on Tuesday night (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — OK Warriors fans you can breathe a bit easier this morning after hearing that forward Kevin Durant’s knee injury isn’t season-ending.
Durant injured his left knee in the first minute of Golden State’s 112-108 loss to the Wizards in Washington Tuesday night. The injury occurred on a loose-ball situation after Wizards center Marcin Gortat fouled Warriors center Zsa Zsa Pachulia, who then fell back on Durant’s left leg. Durant jumped back and tried to run off the injury, but was in obvious pain before walking off the court on his own power and into the locker room.
Durant will miss at least four weeks with a sprained MCL and bruised tibial bone in his left leg, the team announced Wednesday. The small forward will be out indefinitely, but will be re-evaluated.
Durant leads the team in scoring (25.3 points per game), free throw makes (5.5) and attempts (6.3) per game, rebounding (8.2 rpg) and blocks (1.6 bpg).
The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears received a text message from Warriors forward Draymond Green said that he is “relieved” by the diagnosis.
“I’m definitely relieved. I thought it would be way worse,” Green wrote. “Being away weeks sucks, but we will take that over what was initially thought.”
The Warriors (50-10) have the best record in the league and now with Durant’s injury, their perch atop the Western Conference could be in jeopardy with second-place San Antonio (45-13) hot on Golden State’s heels at just four games back.
San Antonio rocked Golden State 129-100 in Durant’s first game with Golden State at Oracle Arena after nine season with the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder organization.
The Spurs and Warriors meet up twice this month, both in San Antonio.
For Golden State, it will be second game of a back-to-back after playing in Minneapolis and Houston respectively the previous night.
The play of Green, and guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will need to step up their individual games even more. Durant’s absence will be felt, but it will be up to the Warriors other three All-Stars to lead Golden State down the stretch heading into the playoffs.
Curry and Thompson both have struggled to shoot the three-ball post the All-Star break.
Curry is really in a shooting slump, connecting on just 2-of-20 of his 3s in his last two games. The two-time league MVP was converted 41 percent of his 3s before the break, but is just shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc post break.
Thompson is shooting just 31 percent from 3 post break after shooting 42 percent before the break.
Before racking up 24 points, 25 assists, and 14 rebounds while shooting 11-for-21 from the field in his last two games, Green struggled in the two games prior, totaling 12 points, six assists, and 14 rebounds.
Golden State is expected to sign free agent forward Matt Barnes for the remainder of the season in the wake of Durant’s injury, per Chris Haynes and Marc Stein of ESPN.
The Warriors will reportedly first sign free agent Jose Calderon, fulfilling their pledge to the 12-year veteran, before adding Barnes to fill void vacated by Durant.
Barnes was averaging 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with the Kings before being waived shortly before Thursday’s trade deadline last week.
This will be Barnes’ second go-around with Golden State.
Barnes played with Golden State from 2006-08 and was part of the “We Believe” Warriors team led by Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and Jason Richardson that squeaked in the playoffs as an eight seed and knocked off the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in 2007.
Barnes told Spears of The Undefeated that his return to Golden State is “a dream come true.”
The versatile Barnes, who turns 37 on Mar. 9, brings another solid defender with toughness on the wing to go along with Green and swingman Andre Iguodala for Golden State.
The addition of Barnes isn’t a earth-shattering move by Golden State, but it does give the Warriors some flexibility to sustain Durant’s absence for the foreseeable future.