Here’s the plan for Warriors to finish strong without Kevin Durant

A lot of haters are thrilled that Kevin Durant has a sprained MCL — which says a lot about the fluxed-up world we live in right now — but they shouldn’t be too giddy just yet.

If Durant returns before the NBA playoffs, which is quite possible, then the extended absence may be the best thing that happens to the Warriors’ best player and his team. For one, that would make for a fresher — albeit somewhat rusty — K.D. come playoff time.

It also means that coach Steve Kerr has one less All-Star to monitor down the stretch. Those who saw how Kerr botched the Stephen Curry debacle last postseason know what Balls means here.

What’s more, oh jealous hearts, the Warriors can still nail down the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and be well-rested at the same time, Durant or no Durant.

First, let’s do the math …

At the moment, the Warriors own a four-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the top spot. Of their 22 final games, a dozen will be against jamokes. If they were to win only two of every three from here on out, the Spurs would have to play lights out (19-5) to catch them.

Don’t hold your breath. Remember, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich prefers to rest players in advance of the playoffs. That plan won’t change unless the top seed is up for grabs in the final days.

Only an extended slump stands between the Warriors and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. And they haven’t had one of those since early in the 2013-14 season.

So, here’s Balls’ full-proof plan: Bench one or even two among Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson against non-playoff teams in the next four weeks. Added bonuses: The chance that Green picks up another technical foul (or worse) is cut in half, while reserves get more time.

Come March 31, when the Warriors head into the home stretch with six of their final seven games at Oracle Arena, the entire group can ratchet up the intensity. If the Spurs are still in the chase, move the date up two days, when the teams are scheduled to meet for the final time.

By then, hopefully, Durant will be available. And so will Curry, Thompson and everyone else.

Just Do It.

SAME OLD STORY: For some reason, the Raiders are said to be interested in running back Adrian Peterson in the likely event that Latavius Murray becomes a free agent. Peterson will turn 32 later this month. Since 2013, he has had one productive season.

Kinda sounds like Maurice Jones-Drew all over again — and how did that work out for the Silver and Black?

What’s needed is a real bruiser here. Free agents Eddie Lacy or LeGarrette Blount might be worth a look at the right price. Better yet, target D’Onta Foreman (Texas), who could still be on the board late in round two.

NICE TRY SORT OF: Sharks general general Doug Wilson whiffed on Martin Hanzal before the trade deadline, but he did do more than work on his tan.

On Tuesday the Sharks overpaid to get forward Yannik Hansen from the Vancouver Canucks in return for top prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth-round draft pick. If San Jose hosts a Stanley Cup parade this spring — imagine that — the pick becomes a first-rounder, which the organ-i-zation will be absolutely thrilled to give away.

Otherwise, the price was way too steep when you consider that Hansen wasn’t the top six forward that the team needed to pass the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference.

Goldobin was one of the few players with lots of potential in a farm system that ranks among the worst in the league. At 21, the kid has a chance to become something special in the near future. Some even compare him to fellow Russian Ilya Kovalchuk, a career 417-goal scorer.

The 31-year-old Hansen provides depth and versatility on the front line, although his balky right knee should be a concern. He’s also under contract at a reasonable $2 million next season. That makes him a prime candidate to replace free agent Patrick Marleau if and when Marleau ever decides to leave finally.

Even as a potential free agent after the season, Hanzal would have been a better get for a franchise whose future is now. Stanley Cup champions are built down the middle, and the 30-year would have been an ideal two-way center on the third line.

Here’s another reason to like Hanzal more: The last three seasons he won 56 percent of his face-offs, where the teams currently ranks 25th in the league.

At a time when Western Conference is there to be had, Wilson didn’t do enough.

JUST SAYIN: Clean-shaven Brian Wilson threatens to make a comeback as a knuckleballer. If that doesn’t work out, the ex-Giant can grow a playoff beard and join the Sharks instead.

Great first week for New York Mets farmhand Tim Tebow in spring training. He completed 10 of 23 relay throws with no interceptions.

It’s March. You have permission to follow college basketball again.

YOUR TURN: What do with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who can opt out of his Santa Clara contract before the Thursday deadline? Balls Nation has no shortage of opinions . . .

“Santa Clara should not bring Kaeperick back. Too much baggage and drama. Fresh start for all involved!” Steve Benjamin, San Francisco

“My sales territory includes Reno, so I became a Kaepernick fan way before his NFL debut. I am still his fan. In my opinion, the quarterback isn’t the problem with Santa Clara’s NFL team. Wealthy but shallow ownership and a lack of coaching continuity are the real problems.” Bill Bowers, San Ramon

“I think Santa Clara had two guys who could have done as well has him last year, and $14 million-plus is a lot of money for a guy who considers himself primarily a social activist. But, in the Bay Area, being seen as a social activist is more important than being seen as a successful athlete.” — Thomas Burgess, Noe Valley

“Putting aside the whole ‘fresh start’ perspective of the new regime, it would make sense to keep him as a No. 2, for sure. And while he showed ‘improvement’ last year, which is really code for thriving under a horrible regime despite fundamental flaws in the system, he probably could never be a No. 1 without a perfect o-line to protect his bad judgment and a historically good D to give him numerous opportunities to correct his mistakes.” — Mike Hale, San Francisco

“Is this a joke? Yes, I have had enough of Kap.” — Marianne Smith, San Francisco

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

Paul Ladewski

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