OAKLAND — Kevin Durant missed a start for the first time this season on Wednesday. It was a marquee matchup against a promising Minnesota Timberwolves team, too.
With new rules in place prohibiting teams from sitting “healthy players for high-profile, nationally televised games,” the Golden State Warriors had to assign an injury designation to avoid a fine.
But don’t expect Durant’s “left thigh contusion” to be a reason for concern. Head coach Steve Kerr admitted pregame that if it were a playoff game, Durant would be playing.
This ploy was inevitable. The NBA can’t be in the business of proving the veracity of injuries. And teams, especially those with title expectations like the Warriors, aren’t going to do anything that could negatively affect themselves in the long run.
The Dubs didn’t need Durant on Wednesday, when they halted the Wolves’ five-game win streak — 125-101.
“I actually kind of like these games when we have to sit somebody — in a weird way,” Kerr said after the game. “It’s good for our team.”
Precisely 29 head coaches in the NBA would never imagine saying something like that about a player like Durant.
What Wednesday night’s game showed was that the training-camp portion of the season is officially dead and buried. The team is flying around the floor. The defense is locked in.
And the new guys have completely bought in.
Case in point: Nick Young had five assists. And he celebrated nearly each one. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, Swaggy P had four steals. After weeks of being targeted for showing up from the offseason out of shape and wondering if he’d ever fit on the team, he made the strongest statement he could in a nationally televised game.
“We needed someone to step up and he did that,” Draymond Green said. “He brought the energy.”
And if Omri Casspi can stay healthy, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t as he’s playing a reasonable number of minutes in a system perfect for his playing style, he’ll make for the perfect complementary piece for a team that honestly didn’t really need one.
The Warriors didn’t even need everyone’s favorite reserve, Jordan Bell, although I’m sure he would’ve had a productive game if he had gotten serious burn.
“I like nights like this and as I said we are fortunate to be able to, with our depth and our talent, make up for the loss of a great player,” Kerr said.
The championship hangover is officially over. And the Warriors know how to win without Durant — they proved as much last year. Now it’s time to stack wins in a methodical march to the Finals. Other obstacles will arise; Kerr and his players will find a way to overcome them. The flexes will continue. It’s all they know at this point.
No wonder every other fanbase hates this team so much.
Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.