Stephen Curry resumed full practice with contact and could play for the defending champion Golden State Warriors as soon as Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday night against New Orleans.
Curry looked strong as he practiced Thursday wearing a protective brace over his sprained left knee, which has sidelined him since the injury March 23 — the same day he returned from a six-game absence because of a hurt right ankle.
Coach Steve Kerr is calling Curry questionable for Saturday. That could change if the two-time NBA MVP still feels fine Friday and is fine after one more day of full practice before the Pelicans visit Oracle Arena to begin the best-of-seven series.
“Steph practiced at 100 percent, he did everything, he looked good,” Kerr said. “What we have to do is see how his body responds the rest of the day, put him through another practice tomorrow. I think he needs to string together two good days but it was very positive today. I think it’s been coming along pretty well.
“When we were in San Antonio and I was asked a question about how he was doing, I think I was able to give an answer, ‘He’s doing great but we haven’t ramped him up yet.’ I think today was an important day because it’s the first time he’s actually gone live action and he was allowed to go through practice. And he appears fine.”
Curry went through his usual shooting work with Kevin Durant from various spots after practice, cutting and exhibiting his fancy footwork and dribbling skills. The Warriors have played well without their floor leader, eliminating the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the first-round series with a 99-91 win Tuesday night.
The Pelicans will present a different, faster pace for the Warriors, so getting Curry back to push the ball and direct the offense would be important. Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, started in the first round in his place while Quinn Cook handled point guard duties late in the regular season with Curry out.
“We’re excited. I know he’s very eager to play,” said Klay Thompson. “He’s a competitor, so sitting out I know kills him. We can’t wait for him to get back whenever that is.”
Budenholzer’s departure ‘hamonious’
Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk on Thursday described coach Mike Budenholzer’s exit as “harmonious” and “as mutual as parting can be.”
Schlenk also said the decision, finalized and announced late Wednesday, came after many discussions with Budenholzer and was not based on just one factor.
“It’s not one thing,” Schlenk said. “It was just the course of several conversations we just felt like this was best for him and his career and the right time for the Hawks for where we are.”
Added Schlenk: “It was kind of we felt the right time for both of us to go separate directions. It wasn’t negative on either side. It was just time for both of us to move forward.”
Budenholzer helped to pave his path out of Atlanta by expressing interest in coaching other teams.
Schlenk said he still believed at the end of the season, when the Hawks finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, that Budenholzer would remain the team’s coach. Then Budenholzer received permission to interview with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks .
Budenholzer withdrew his name from consideration with the Suns and remains a candidate with the Knicks.
Schlenk said he will look for a new coach who can work with a young, rebuilding team.
Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury. Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason. The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.
3:30 p.m.: This report has been updated with news of Stephen Curry returning to full practice.
This report was originally published at 12:10 p.m.