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San Francisco Chronicle Interviews Dr. Mandelbaum About Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant's MCL Sprain


WASHINGTON — The Warriors’ pursuit of an NBA title absorbed a possibly serious setback Wednesday, when the team announced that forward Kevin Durant will miss at least four weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament and a bone bruise in his left leg.

Durant is out indefinitely and will be re-evaluated in four weeks. That means March 29 is the soonest he could return, at which point there will be eight games left in the regular season. The hope is that Durant will play again before the playoffs.

“I know none of these guys are happy now because they care for Kevin, and they want to see him on the court,” general manager Bob Myers said. “He’ll do his best to get healthy."

Ligament sprains are graded on a 1-3 scale, with Durant’s being deemed a Grade 2. The typical recovery for such an injury is 4-to-8 weeks, but a bone bruise can increase that timeline.

“It’ll take him about 3-4 weeks to get over the initial pain,” said Bert Mandelbaum, an orthopedic surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. “Then it’s about returning to basketball at that (NBA) level. I think it’s a range, depending on where exactly he is on the spectrum of that injury.”

A sprain of the MCL indicates at least a partial tearing of the ligament. According to, the symptoms are “noticeable looseness in the knee when moved by hand; major pain and tenderness at the inside of the knee; swelling, in some cases.”

Last spring, Stephen Curry was sidelined for two weeks during the playoffs after suffering a less-serious Grade 1 MCL sprain when he slipped on the court in Houston during Game 4 of the Warriors’ first-round series against the Rockets. He missed the rest of that series — which the Warriors won in five games — and sat out the first three games of the second round against Portland before coming off the bench to score 40 points in Game 4.

Durant’s injury came 57 seconds into Tuesday’s 112-108 loss to the Wizards, when Washington’s Marcin Gortat fouled Zaza Pachulia, who fell backward onto Durant. The All-Star played two more possessions before asking head coach Steve Kerr to call timeout with 10:27 left in the quarter.

After meeting with trainers, Durant walked gingerly to the locker room. He exited with zero points to end his streak of regular-season games with at least 10 points at 562. Late Tuesday night, Durant underwent an MRI exam at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington. There was a short time when the Warriors worried that Durant’s injury was worse, but a CT scan eased those concerns.

“I don’t know (how long that period was), if it was 10, 15 minutes,” Myers said. “The CT scan gives you much more clarity on a bone injury or a bone bruise, much more than an MRI. That’s where the MCL sprain showed up, but we needed to get more specificity. … Ultimately, the CT scan cleared up any of the vagueness.”

Durant was scheduled to fly back to the Bay Area on Wednesday while his teammates headed to Chicago to play the third game of a five-game, eight-day road trip. Though not as dire a prognosis as was initially feared, Durant’s injury is a major blow to Golden State.

With 22 games left in the regular season, the Warriors (50-10) have a 3½-game lead over San Antonio (46-13) for the Western Conference’s top seed. They have 12 home games — only 10 against teams that currently have a winning record — and two of the road games (March 11 and March 29) — are in San Antonio.

“Health is probably the most important, but (playoff) seeding is right up there,” Myers said of his team’s priorities. “I know we’re going to try to win as many games as we can. ... We will do our best to keep the positioning we have now, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Durant leads Golden State in scoring (25.3 points per game), rebounding (8.2) and blocks (1.6), and ranks third in assists (4.8), steals (1.1) and three-pointers (112). His emergence as an elite interior defender had put him in the discussion for his first All-Defensive team selection.

To help offset Durant’s injury, the Warriors have agreed to sign forward Matt Barnes for the rest of the season. Before being released by the Kings on Feb. 20, he was averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Durant’s absence also should signal bigger roles for the likes of Andre Iguodala, Patrick McCaw, James Michael McAdoo and Kevon Looney.

“Every team has adversity, though it might not seem we’ve had much,” Myers said. “We went through some injuries last year. No one’s going to have any sympathy for us.”

Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: cletourneau@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @Con_Chron
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