Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry deny Warriors upset with how OKC handled Kevin Durant’s Feb. 11 return

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Warriors’ Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry have disputed an ESPN report that Golden State was furious about the inactivity from Thunder leadership leading up to Kevin Durant’s first return visit to Oklahoma City on Feb. 11.

Sources told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that the Warriors were of the mindset that someone from ownership or management should have addressed the media on Durant’s behalf to help ease the tension upon his return.

“I don’t agree,” Kerr said. “[Thunder general manager] Sam Presti’s a friend of mine. I know [Thunder chairman] Clay Bennett, it’s a class organization all the way. So I don’t really pay any attention to a story like that unless there’s an actual name that’s put on, so, I assume it’s just sources? Sources? So I don’t know who that is. It’s nobody with the Warriors. So, we have great respect for the Thunder. Sam’s been a friend of mine forever. They’re first class, so I don’t know where that comes from.”

In February, Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that he thought the emotion was high because “Kevin is so connected to people on an emotional level.”

“So I get that they were hurt, but why all the hate? From what I understand, he’s given a lot back to this community … It’s fair to boo him and to cheer for your team by making the environment tough. If he’s a bad guy or he came out and said he didn’t like the place, I could see hate. But KD at his core is an unbelievable human,” Fraser said.

Kerr said “emotional returns or farewells” in the NBA have become “routine” because “guys get traded, they get cut, they sign elsewhere as free agents.”

“It’s kind of what makes the whole thing work, it’s the connection from the fans, the emotional connection. So that will lead to some tears, some cheers, some boos. A little bit of everything. It’s all just part of the game.”

Curry also dismissed the report.

“This league is a very interesting place all the way through. Certain stories that don’t need to see the light of day, don’t need to have any kind of life breathed into them, are somehow the most popular. It’s kind of how it goes,” he said. “To me it’s kind of comical. Just what can be put on a spotlight during an 82-game year, and at the end of the day we’re all just trying to win games and enjoy what we do for a living, and that’s it.”

Curry said he wasn’t surprised by the story.

“I actually look forward to waking up and seeing what ridiculousness is posted,” he said.

Bone bruises, MCL spikes make Kevin Durant out indefinitely

Warriors star Kevin Durant will miss at least four weeks after Golden State diagnosed him with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise on his left leg, the team announced Wednesday.

The Warriors announced that Durant is out indefinitely and would be re-evaluated in four weeks.

Golden State said Durant could play again in the regular season. The Warriors’ final regular-season game is scheduled for six weeks from Wednesday’s announcement.

“At this time it’s just speculation to guess when that is,” general manager Bob Myers said in a conference call. “He’ll heal as his body heals. And when he’s healed and our doctors clear him and we feel like it’s safe, he’ll play. I want to know as much as you guys, but at this point the plan is just to re-evaluate him and see where he’s at in four weeks.”

Myers acknowledged a 10- to 15-minute window in which the Warriors thought Durant’s injury was season-ending.

“There was a moment where there was a potential different diagnosis,” Myers said, “but that didn’t last too long and most of it was let’s get another image to make sure we have a clear look at this, and that’s what determined the final diagnosis as I was told.”

Warriors forward Draymond Green told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in a text that he is “relieved” by the diagnosis.

“I’m definitely relieved. I thought it would be way worse,” Green wrote. “Being away weeks sucks, but we will take that over what was initially thought.”

Durant suffered the injury in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s 112-108 loss to the Washington Wizards. The injury occurred during a loose-ball situation in which Wizards center Marcin Gortat fouled Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who then fell backward into Durant’s leg. Durant jumped away from Pachulia’s contact, hopping while holding his left leg.

He proceeded to play the next two possessions before asking Warriors coach Steve Kerr to call timeout with 10:26 remaining in the quarter. After meeting with trainers, Durant, who was grimacing and holding his left leg, headed to the locker room and did not return.

Durant underwent an MRI on Tuesday night that revealed a Grade 2, or moderate, sprain in the knee and a bruised tibia.

Durant is in “good spirits” given the initial fears about the severity of the situation, league sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Sources told Stein and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Durant, who will soon return to the Bay Area to begin treatment and recovery, was initially told he had suffered a fractured tibia as opposed to a bruised tibia, which would have been season-ending.

Nobody on the Warriors felt any concern that the play was intentional, Myers said.

“These things happen in sports,” he said. “Nobody’s raised that question on our side. I don’t know if it’s being raised outside of us. I spoke to Kevin a couple times. Other than just being disappointed that he’s injured, nobody’s mentioned anything like that.”

Wednesday’s injury news could challenge the Warriors (50-10) in their effort to clinch home-court advantage throughout the playoffs for the third straight season. They lead the San Antonio Spurs (45-13) by four games for the West’s top spot.

The Warriors remain the outright favorite to win the NBA title at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, with oddsmakers dropping Golden State slightly from minus-220 to minus-200 to win their second title in three years after Durant’s injury status was announced.

In the wake of Durant’s injury, the Warriors agreed to a deal with veteran swingman Matt Barnes, he confirmed to ESPN. The Sacramento Kings waived Barnes on Feb. 20 because they needed a roster spot to accommodate the players they received in their DeMarcus Cousins trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jimmy Butler vowed to 100%, and then joined the Bulls

SAN FRANCISCO — Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler will miss his third straight game Wednesday night against the Warriors because of a right heel injury.

Butler, who originally injured the heel last Wednesday in a win over the Thunder, did not participate in Wednesday’s shootaround and acknowledged he still had pain in the heel.

“I don’t think it’s getting worse. It’s actually getting better,” Butler said after Wednesday’s shootaround. “There’s just certain movements, and that will make it worse. You don’t want that to happen.”

Guard Dwyane Wade did not participate in the shootaround because of an upper respiratory infection. He is a game-time decision against the Warriors.

Center Cris Felicio (right lower leg strain) is also questionable. He was expected to miss a week after injuring his leg in a loss to the Rockets last Friday, but he has started to do more in practice.

Coach Fred Hoiberg said that Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant will remain in the starting lineup alongside Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson. If Wade does not play, it is unclear who will start in his place.

Butler was noncommittal when asked if he would play Friday against the Phoenix Suns.

“Man, I’m hopeful for every day,” Butler said. “Hopefully when I go back to the hotel and eat some Cheerios, it’s the magical thing that my body doesn’t hurt. Whatever it takes. I just want to play. But yeah, I’m hopeful that day by day, hour after hour, I’ll return to the basketball court.”

Butler acknowledged he is thinking long term with the injury, but is hopeful he won’t do more damage to the heel when he does return.

“Obviously, but I want to go out there and be able to help,” he said. “I don’t want to be able to go out there and play like 10 minutes and be like, ‘I can’t move.’ I want to go out there and be the player I can be on both ends of the floor. My coaches, my teammates understand that. When I go out there I want to play. There ain’t gonna be no restrictions. Go out there and play however many minutes, whatever I’m asked to do on the basketball court.’

“I don’t want to be able to go out there and play like 10 minutes and be like, ‘I can’t move.’ I want to go out there and be the player I can be on both ends of the floor. My coaches, my teammates understand that. When I go out there I want to play. There ain’t gonna be no restrictions. Go out there and play however many minutes, whatever I’m asked to do on the basketball court.”