So it's a good-news/bad-news situation for the Warriors on the Kevin Durant injury front: After getting an MRI on Thursday, Durant has reportedly suffered a mild strain, which is pretty much the best news possible given the potential alternatives. The bad news is he'll be re-evaluated next week, .
Golden State’s Kevin Durant has suffered a mild strain on his right calf and expected to be re-evaluated next week, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 9, 2019
Dr. Alan Beyer, an orthopedic surgeon and the executive medical director at the renowned Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach, Ca., told CBS Sports on Thursday that a mild strain means "somewhere between a Grade 1 and Grade 2 strain, which is going to likely keep him out for two weeks in a best-case scenario."
Do the math, and that's somewhere between Game 5 and Game 6 of the conference finals, should the Warriors get past Houston. The conference finals are set to begin May 14, with Game 5 scheduled for May 22, almost two weeks exactly from Thursday.
"He'll be getting daily physical therapy starting immediately, anti-inflammatories, ice, and then it's just a matter of how it responds," Dr. Beyer told CBS Sports. "His playing status will be all about how much the swelling reduces, and how well he's able to forcibly contract the muscle, which is necessary to jump. He could feasibly get back by Game 4 against Portland or Denver if he pushed it, but now you're risking making the injury a whole lot worse. So let's talk about that aspect of it.
"Understand, a strain and tear are the same thing," Dr. Beyer continued. "So Durant has a tear in that calf. The grading just indicates how many fibers have been affected. So a mild strain, or a Grade 1 or 2 tear, whatever you want to call it, that is one thing. But if he were to come back on a partially-healed calf, and then end up tearing it all the way by landing or taking off wrong, now you're talking about potentially never coming back 100 percent. He would regret that decision the rest of his career."
Indeed, Durant's future playing status adds a whole other layer to this situation. He's a free agent this summer. His decision is going to affect his life and the entire league dramatically. Whenever Durant comes back, it's not just about this season. This will be factored in to some degree as Durant and the Warriors decide when to put him back on the court.
But let's say Dr. Beyer is correct in that we're roughly looking at a Game 5 return for Durant in the conference finals. The Warriors, even if they get by the Rockets, will then have to go through at least four games vs. either Denver or Portland without him. Can they get by under those circumstances? Will they be down 3-1 by the time Durant gets back? You can surely bet the Nuggets and Blazers are suddenly feeling like they have a legitimate chance to make the NBA Finals, just as Houston clearly has an opportunity to come back in this second-round series do the same. The door has opened for everyone.