1. Durant goes down in his hometown
In his first game in Washington since joining the Warriors, Kevin Durant lasted only a minute before leaving with a knee injury. Despite looking scary, initial reports are optimistic that Durant will be back in time for the playoffs. Even if KD is hung up longer than that, this injury doesn’t suddenly spell doom for Golden State: they did set a league record for wins last season without him.
The Warriors signed Matt Barnes to fill some of Durant’s minutes for the rest of the regular season, and should continue to roll to the number one seed. However, their loss last night guaranteed they wouldn’t be matching last year’s historic mark of 73-9.
As for the rest of the league, this injury provides the first glimmer of hope since Durant joined the Warriors’ “Big Three,” but that glimmer has a long way to go to becoming a ray. The most vulnerable Golden State will be is when KD first returns to the lineup and they try and recapture the chemistry they’ve spent all season cultivating. If that comes in the first or second round of the playoffs, it probably won’t matter because neither Denver nor the Clippers would knock this team off on their best days.
If he returns earlier, that’s just gravy.
On the off-chance Durant ends up being out for the year, then Curry, Thompson, and Green will still more than likely lead the Warriors to the finals. Really, this news shouldn’t result in any different bets being made; it just allows those who have already taken the Spurs, Rockets, or Cavaliers to feel slightly more confident.
2. No Mo’ for Poe
After the Chiefs made Eric Berry the highest paid safety in football, the thinking was they would slap the franchise tag on defensive tackle Dontari Poe. But Ian Rapoport is now reporting Kansas City will not use the tag on Poe, meaning the 346 lb “two-way player” will likely hit the open market. It’s a curious move for a Chiefs team that was very weak against the run last year; but they did have other playmakers emerge along the line, including rookie Chris Jones, and that could bolster their confidence in letting Poe go.
The money saved on Poe should allow Kansas City to address other areas of need, perhaps improving at inside linebacker, or attracting more playmakers on offense. The Chiefs enter this offseason as one of the more intriguing teams in the league: solid, but incapable of getting over the hump in the playoffs. It may take a drastic (cough, Tony Romo) move to get this team to the next level. Until then, they’ll remain in that second-tier of contenders, regardless of their day-to-day roster moves,
3. NHL trades continue to be made(s)
So many pieces are moving, yet few teams are moving the needle on their Cup chances. Basically, every contender has made at least one acquisition now; none have topped the Kevin Shattenkirk trade in terms of impact. The deadline is this afternoon, but unless the Avalanche finally move Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog, it’s hard to say the playoff race has really been impacted.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.