By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The Golden State Warriors will not be letting injuries to Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins come between them and a third straight NBA title, the club’s power forward Jonas Jerebko told Reuters on Wednesday.
Speaking from the team hotel ahead of the first game in the best-of-seven series in Toronto on Thursday, the Swede said the Warriors bench players are ready to step up.
“Kevin is here and Demarcus is here and they are preparing, they’re practicing as well as they can so we’ll see if they make it. We have to prepare as if they won’t, so if they come back we can treat it as a bonus,” he said.
“We’ve played well recently so we’ll have to continue building on that and hoping that we get both Demarcus and KD back.”
Cousins, who has not played since tearing a quad muscle against the LA Clippers on April 15, is listed as questionable for the opening game, while Durant has been ruled out with a calf sprain suffered against the Houston Rockets on May 8.
The Warriors have won all five games Durant has missed so far, but Jerebko would like to see him back in the starting five sooner rather than later.
“We’re talking about the best player in the world in Kevin Durant, so obviously he helps us, he can score almost whenever he wants,” Jerebko said.
“It’s a bit sour not to have the best player in the world in your team, but he’s doing everything he can to make it back. We need to concentrate on ourselves and play as well as we can without him.”
Standing between him and the chance to become the first Swede to win an NBA title is a Toronto Raptors team who powered their way to an Eastern Conference title on the back of superb individual performances by Kawhi Leonard.
“They beat us twice in the regular season but we didn’t really have our full team, they have a good time so we’ll see, it’s going to be interesting,” Jerebko said.
Drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons in 2009, Jerebko was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2015, and the following season they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost 4-1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The chance to appear in the NBA Finals is a dream come true for the 32-year-old Swede, who was picked up by the Warriors after being released by the Utah Jazz last year.
“This is why I came here. This has always been the goal, and we’re four wins away. I’m not satisfied yet, there’s some work left to do,” he said.
Now in his 10th season in the league, the Swede revealed that he won’t be making any changes to how he prepares ahead of the biggest games of his life.
“It’s the same as usual, the things I’ve done throughout my career to be ready when the chance comes and to do as well as I can. I’ve trained for this all my life,” he said.
Brought to the club for his tough defense, team-first mentality and accurate long-distance shooting, Jerebko said he has only one personal ambition for the season.
“I want to win a (championship) ring. I want to win the games. I’m always going to do whatever I can to help my team win,” he said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)