OAKLAND — On July 5, 2016, Kevin Durant confirmed some stunning news, announcing in an essay for The Players’ Tribune that he would be signing with the Golden State Warriors. One year, eight months and three days later, Durant found himself on the Oracle Arena court, during significant second-quarter minutes, with Kevon Looney, Nick Young, Omri Casspi and Quinn Cook.
Durant, probably: “Does this void my contract?”
We checked the fine print, and there is no Quinn Cook rider in Durant’s deal.
Anyway, there were valid reasons for this Crazy-glued Warriors lineup. It wasn’t the whim of coach Steve Kerr. It was the randomness of the sports injury.
The Warriors entered Thursday night’s contest against the San Antonio Spurs minus small forward Andre Iguodala, who has a sprained wrist; stabilizing power forward David West, who has a mysterious cyst on his right arm; rookie big man Jordan Bell, who has a sprained ankle; and young Patrick McCaw, who has a fractured left wrist.
These injuries were equalizers against a team like the Spurs, who have played most of the season without their superstar, Kawhi Leonard. But what happened 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the Warriors’ dramatic 110-107 win was no equalizer. It was a blood-pressure-riser.
The play looked pretty innocuous. Running the break, Stephen Curry went up for a layup and was challenged by San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Dejounte Murray. Curry seemed to do OK on the landing, but as he bore down on a photographer and the fans behind him, his right ankle did a thing that ankles aren’t supposed to do.
The crowd groaned reflexively as Curry bent over near the south-side tunnel. He limped to the bench, made his way back to the free-throw line after a timeout, hit two foul shots, then limped away again, this time to the Warriors locker room. He was done for the night.
“A Steph ankle injury is always kind of a worry,” teammate Draymond Green said. “He’s done it so many times, you can usually tell immediately if he can get through it or not by his reaction. Just by his reaction tonight, it was kind of a worry. … It’s always kind of a hold-your-breath type of moment when it happens.”
Curry’s injury may not prove to be a catastrophe. But as omens go, it’s pretty much a field of dead corn.
We know by now that the Warriors’ prospects are always as healthy, or as unhealthy, as Steph Curry’s lower extremities. He was Mr. Vigorous in 2014-15 and 2016-17, and Golden State was crowned champion both of those years.
But we all remember the opposite of that, and it curdles the blood.
We remember, for example, the dark seasons of 2010-11 and, especially, 2011-12, when Curry’s vast potential was constantly undermined by a balky right ankle. This was before the 50-win seasons and the back-to-back MVP awards, and it wasn’t one bit clear that Curry would become a star. Not because he couldn’t shoot like the devil, but because he couldn’t stay on the court long without his ankle trying to rotate 360 degrees.
Curry escaped his destiny, largely through a grueling strength and flexibility program (and two surgeries), and happiness reined in THE BAY, as it said on the Warriors’ shirts Thursday night. But Fragile Curry returned in the 2016 playoffs, when he sprained his right ankle, then later the MCL in his right knee, in a first-round series against Houston.