Why the Warriors should not rest Durant vs Blazers if he's fully healthy

Why the Warriors should not rest Durant vs Blazers if he's fully healthy

If he’s healthy, Kevin Durant has to play. If there are no physical restrictions or associated risks, he should be on the court for what remains of the Warriors’ first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

And, yes, this goes against the sentiment that has become trendy in recent days.

Do the Warriors, with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, need Durant to close out Portland? No. Not in the least. The absence of starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who possibly could miss the entire series, is an opening for a Warriors sweep.

Which is why it has become fashionable to suggest they should confine Durant to the sideline for Game 3 Saturday and even Game 4 on Monday. Why put him on the court for Game 3 if you won Game 4 by 29 points?

Here’s why: Durant wants to be out there. If his left calf strain is fully recovered, he should be out there.

Durant’s mentality, and he has conveyed this many times, is one of devotion to the game. Basketball is his greatest passion, and it’s also his identity. He has many interests beyond the game -- the game does not begin to define his humanity -- but the essence of Kevin Durant is most visible when he’s doing his thing on the court.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been around Durant long enough to fully comprehend this. He sees Durant’s work ethic, sees the attention he devotes to details and feels his love affair with the game.

“If he's ready to play, he's going to play,” Kerr said after a 110-81 victory in Game 2 at Oracle Arena. “But if there's any question, then we won't play him.”

If he’s ready is the smart play. Even if the Warriors go up to Portland and win Game 3 by 40 points without Durant, he should play in Game 4 if he is medically cleared.

You have to consider Durant’s status in the game. He is, by any reasonable and rational standard, one of the top five players on earth. Some have questioned his competitive instincts. Others have wondered if he possesses the mental toughness and profound ruthlessness often required to become a champion.

He wants to prove the doubters wrong. He wants this postseason, with this team, to be his reply to any and all questions.

So if he’s able, he should play. Has to play. You don’t take away a singer’s microphone because of yesterday’s headache, or because the show can be great regardless of his or her presence. It cheats principle. And it sends a wayward message.

It tells the Warriors that Durant is a luxury item, and that’s the last thing they want or need to hear.

It tells Durant the same thing, and also implies that his desires are irrelevant.

It would be foolish for the Warriors to go down this road, no matter what kind of chatter is taking place outside their walls.

Warriors as healthy as ever while playing waiting game for next opponent

Warriors as healthy as ever while playing waiting game for next opponent

OAKLAND -- Now that the Warriors have gone through a full-squad scrimmage for the first time in three weeks, there is only one issue to be resolved before they get back to the business of the playoffs.

Whom to play? And when?

As of Friday afternoon, the Warriors had no idea of either.

They will face the winner of the Clippers-Jazz first-round series, in which Utah took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 Friday night in Salt Lake City.

“Why are we talking about Utah like the Clippers are done?” Draymond Green wondered after fielding several Jazz-related questions after scrimmaging.

Well, because the Jazz won Games 4 and 5 and is favored to win Game 6 at home. If they win, they’ll come into Oracle Arena Sunday afternoon to meet the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

If the Clippers win Game 6 to even the series, those teams will meet for Game 7 Sunday in Los Angeles, with the winner advancing to face the Warriors in Game 1 of the conference semifinals next Tuesday night in Oakland.

In any case, the Warriors appear about as healthy has they have been at any time since February.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, out with a finger/hand injury since Game 1 (April 16) of the first-round series against Portland, participated in the scrimmage, as did veteran forward Matt Barnes, who last played on April 8, when he sustained a bone bruise atop his right foot.

“They practiced today and they even went through the scrimmage,” acting head coach Mike Brown said. “But we’ll wait for our training staff to clear them, after they see how they feel today and (Saturday).”

In short, if swelling is minimal, both will be available for Game 1, regardless of when.

So, too, will Kevin Durant. After a strained left calf kept him out of Games 2 and 3 against the Trail Blazers, he started and played 20 minutes in decisive Game 4 without any ill effects.

Nothing changed during the scrimmage Friday.

“It felt great out there,” he said. “Nothing bothered me. It was definitely good. I’m just trying to hopefully put that injury stuff behind.”

Durant conceded that he continues to receive treatment and ice, but mostly to minimize potential swelling.

Durant makes plea to NBA officials: 'S--- talking is part of the game'

Durant makes plea to NBA officials: 'S--- talking is part of the game'

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant wishes more NBA officials had a better grasp of the language of the game.

They don’t seem to understand that “trash talk” almost always is little more than an act in which healthy emotions are released. It’s as much of the game on the court as pointing out a bad haircut or a fashion error in the locker room.

“I was raised that if you weren’t talking on the court, then something (bad) is going on,” Durant said after Warriors practice on Friday.

Durant caught a glimpse of the chatter earlier this week between former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook and Houston guard Patrick Beverley in decisive Game 5 of the Thunder-Rockets series and was disappointed when the officials slapped each with a technical foul.

“I was like, ‘Man, just play on. It’s a part of the game,’” Durant said.

Though Durant himself is not a premier trash-talker, he plays alongside one in fellow forward Draymond Green.

“That’s why we started playing, to talk a little s--- here and there,” said Durant, who grew up in the Washington D.C. area. “Draymond is really good at it. There are a lot of guys in the league that are good. More guys are quiet now than before.

“But s--- talking is a part of the game. I love it. It’s fun when you’re on the same team as a guy that does it. And then, when you’re playing against it, it’s even better because it brings the best out of you.”

For Durant, there always will be a place for trash talk on the court. Not only did he experience it while growing up but he also was indoctrinated in the practice from the moment he arrived in the NBA in 2007.

He recalls, with fondness, being targeted as a rookie by Kevin Garnett and a few other Celtics.

“When I came into the league, that’s when the Celtics had just got together,” Durant said. “Paul Pierce and KG and those guys talked bad to me as a rookie. I was 19. And they talked so bad to me. And I was talking right back. It was just a fun exchange. That’s what basketball is about.”

Now if only he could get officials to realize this.