Durant goes down but Warriors stay cool amid torrent of injuries

OAKLAND — About 30 minutes before the Golden State Warriors announced that Kevin Durant has an incomplete rib cartilage fracture, becoming the latest in a parade of injured Dubs, head coach Steve Kerr was his usual mixture of jovial and sardonic.

“It’s a harrowing experience,” Kerr deadpanned when asked about the unfamiliar reality of occupying the No. 2 spit in the Western Conference standings.

“I’m just trying to process it all. Second in the conference would just be devastating.”

Durant damaged his rib, at least originally, in the closing minutes of the Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Driving to the rim, Durant barged into Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves’ 7-foot phenom.

“That’s when I felt it. That’s when it happened for sure,” Durant said before Friday night’s 98-93 loss to the Sacramento Kings. “They told me it got inflamed over the couple of days in between the couple of days in between games.”

Durant didn’t think much of it until the second quarter on Wednesday when he went out to guard a Los Angeles Laker on the wing.

“I guess your body reacts a little different once the blood is in the tissue. I’m not a doctor but I think I know a little bit,” Durant said. “And it was a little irritated and weak and I went out to close out in the Laker game [and] I stretched and pulled it a little bit.”

The pain was real.

“I didn’t know what was going on at that point but it was hurting pretty bad.”

A Friday evening MRI revealed the fracture. Durant won’t be re-evaluated for another two weeks. He’ll miss at least six games.

It’s an uncomfortable injury. Sitting at the podium before the meeting with the Kings, Durant said it’s painful to get up, move around and even chuckle.

“It hurts like when I laugh,” Durant said before doing just that.

“You made me laugh.”

Durant’s injury punctuates a furious week of Warriors’ health woes.

It started on Tuesday when the team announced that Curry (tweaked right ankle) won’t be re-evaluated until March 20. A day later, the Warriors said Klay Thompson (fractured right thumb) will be out until at least March 22. That night, Draymond Green missed out on the win over the Lakers with right shoulder soreness, an ailment that has dogged him throughout the season. Andre Iguodala (left wrist sprain) and Jordan Bell (right ankle sprain) returned for the Lakers. David West (right arm cyst) made it back for the Kings.

Then in the first quarter against the Northern California neighbors, Omri Casspi exited with a sprained right ankle.

Durant is plenty familiar with the late-season injury setback.

Last year, on Feb. 28, Durant hyperextended his left knee during the Warriors’ trip to the nation’s capital. He missed 19 games, returned for the last three games of the regular season and went on to win his first title and the Finals MVP.

During the loss to the Kings, Durant wasn’t out on the bench but Curry was, generally making his presence felt and coaching up youngsters — like Jordan Bell and Quinn Cook — at every chance. Cook produced the best game of his brief NBA career. He matched his previous high in points (13) in the first quarter and ended up dropping 25, shooting 10-for-13 from the field and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.

“This didn’t surprise me,” Kerr said, noting Cook’s success with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors. “I knew he was about to breakout.”

Cook credited his teammates and bosses for putting him in the right state of mind.

“The coaches, front office, my vets and my whole team [were] just telling me to stay aggressive [and] that they know what I can do on the floor just making plays,” Cook said. “As a player, especially as a young player, when you have guys like that encouraging you to play your game that helps tremendously.”

As Durant, Curry and Thompson heal up, there will be plenty of opportunities for Cook, and the rest of the B-team, to get some run. The ever-cool Kerr isn’t worried about the mounting injuries, calling them “temporary” after the loss.

Ultimately, the health problems might make it so that the Warriors’ trio of All-Stars enter the postseason fresher than their competitors. Durant isn’t even worrying himself with that kind of talk. He just wants to get back on the court.

“We all just hoopers, man. We just want to play. We just want to hoop, get out there and play ball. So, that’s what I love to do most. That’s what the team loves to do. So, stuff like injuries, it’s just irritating because you just want to hoop. It is what it is. As far as playoffs and all that stuff, I don’t think anybody’s thinking that far down the line.”

kbuscheck@sfexaminer.com

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