Photo: Nick Wass (AP Images)

Steph Curry’s knee injury could have been much, much worse, which is just about the only good thing you can say for the Warriors. It was diagnosed as a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and we won’t see Curry again in the regular season and for at least part of the playoffs. “There’s no way” he returns earlier than the conference semifinals, head coach Steve Kerr said. So yeah, even this better-case scenario is still pretty bad.

Curry suffered the injury on Friday, his first game back after missing time with a nagging right ankle injury, when JaVale McGree crashed into his left leg. He immediately left the game.

Curry immediately left the game and was later diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and the team said he’ll be evaluated in three weeks—the same weekend the playoffs start.

“Oh, there’s no way he’s playing in the first round,” Kerr said. “There’s no way. So yeah, we have to be ready to play without him and see how he’s coming along. The good thing is, we’ve been through this. We should feel good about our ability to play through this stuff.

“We also know that Steph has a history of coming back strong from injuries. So there’s a good chance, if all goes well, he comes back during the playoffs at some point, we’re at full steam. So that’s the goal and that’s our plan.”

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A full roster doesn’t necessarily equal Kerr’s “full steam,” however. In 2016, Curry sprained his knee in the first round. He missed two weeks, and when he returned, Kerr later admitted, he wasn’t 100 percent. It forced the Warriors to change their game plans, and it was probably the difference in a deathly tight seven-game Finals, which were won by the Cavaliers.

This year, of course, the biggest threat to a Golden State repeat resides in their own conference. The Rockets, currently 5.5 games up on the Warriors, are basically guaranteed to claim the top seed. The Warriors are comfortably in second, which means the teams could meet in the West Finals. That’s that much less time for Curry to get right. And that’s assuming the Warriors can make it to the third round, which, given the injuries to the roster and the competition in the West, is not as sure as thing as it’s been in recent years.

After the Rockets and Warriors, the conference is packed—seeds 3–8 are all currently within 3.5 games of each other—so the projected matchups change daily. But Golden State could have a first-round date with the Timberwolves or Spurs, both decent teams that could become much more dangerous if their injury woes clear up in time. The second round could bring the likes of Portland or OKC, two potentially very real threats, especially if Curry can’t return, or if he’s not quite himself when he does.

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The Warriors certainly have other scorers, but none are quite as effective without Curry on the court:

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Kevin Durant said. It seems like fans are being told not to worry a lot this year! Don’t worry when Durant is out. Don’t worry when the team has a relative slump. Don’t worry when the Rockets win the season series. It’s good to be optimistic, I guess, but if there’s anything worth worrying about it’d be this.

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For his part, Curry said he hopes to prove his coach’s prognosis wrong and get back in time for the postseason. I think the Warriors will be fine in the first round with or without him, but that game action would be invaluable in getting him up to speed before the real challenges. The big issue for Golden State might not be so much getting Curry back as it is getting him back healthy and effective.