OAKLAND, Calif. — Optimistic as always, Stephen Curry is ready to prove Steve Kerr wrong and return from a left knee injury for the first round of the playoffs.
Not that it’s entirely up to him. Kerr on Sunday ruled out the two-time MVP for the best-of-seven Western Conference first round. The Warriors are expected to be the No. 2 seed.
"There’s no way he’s playing in the first round," Kerr said.
An MRI exam Saturday showed a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament and the team said Curry would be re-evaluated in three weeks — that would be April 14 and a possible Game 1 of the playoffs for Golden State.
On Sunday, Curry limped up a couple of stairs to the podium for his news conference but didn’t need crutches, saying, "It’s nice that I’m walking and not limited with crutches or anything like that, so that’s a positive.
"Based on what I’ve been told, three weeks is a good kind of benchmark to re-evaluate and re-assess kind of where I’m at in my progress and whatnot, so mentally for me staying positive, staying upbeat, hopefully I prove what Coach said was wrong and put myself in position to get back as soon as possible," Curry said. "Right now, who knows, just try to do my job in the rehab process and get back as soon as I can. Control my presence with the team and everything to help any way I can when I’m not on the floor."
Curry had returned from a six-game absence after his latest right ankle injury Friday night only to injure his left knee. In the third quarter of a victory against Atlanta, centre JaVale McGee fell into him. Curry hobbled off the court grimacing, sat on the bench and put his head down.
"It’s frustrating for sure. I’ve been champing at the bit the last two weeks ready to get back out there and try to finish out the regular season strong and gain some momentum going into the playoffs," said Curry, who also missed 11 games in December with the sprained right ankle.
This time, he said his first thought, jokingly, was, "Thank God it’s not my ankle." Fans figured as much and hollered, "Where are the high tops?"
"I just try to stay positive. There’s a blessing in all of this. There’s hopefully going to be a story in all of this," Curry said. "At the end of the day I’ll have an opportunity to get back on the court hopefully before our season’s over with and do what I can to help our team win a championship. And that’s really all I’m focused on right now. It’s just going to take a different shape than I expected going into the season let alone going into this last stretch of the year."
This is somewhat familiar territory for Curry.
In April 2016, with the Warriors trying to defend a title, Curry suffered Grade 1 sprain of his right MCL in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series when he slipped on a wet spot right before halftime of a win at Houston.
"I remember the feeling of what an MCL sprain is like and how to kind of work through the rehab process and the pain and any sense of discomfort that you feel along that way," he said. "So nothing will be new in that front. It’s just a matter of the other knee and working through that process. As time unfolds I’ll figure out what that means."
Sunday’s game against Utah marked the second time the Warriors played without their four All-Stars after Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all sat for a 107-85 loss on March 11, 2017, at San Antonio. But, that time Durant was the lone injured one of the group rehabbing a left knee injury while the other three simply rested.
Green had been set to return Sunday but was ruled out with flu-like symptoms.
Kerr expects both Durant and Green back as soon as Tuesday against Indiana, while noting "Klay’s coming along well" as he nurses a fractured right thumb.
"Well, we’ve got to hold down the fort," Kerr said. "We’ve got enough. We’re blessed with a great roster, a lot of depth and so let’s get going. Let’s play and let’s compete and hold down the fort. There’s no reason why we can’t come out and really play well down the stretch and be ready for the playoffs and then maybe we get Steph back and we’ll see what happens."