Bad news for Oklahoma City Thunder fans. Although Kevin Durant’s heroics lifted the team over the Toronto Raptors after two overtimes last night, his supreme performance was overshadowed by the re-injury of Russell Westbrook’s knee. Unfortunately, the explosive point guard collided with Kyle Lowry with a little less than four and a half minutes gone by in the third quarter and he re-injured his right knee. Yes, this is the same knee Westbrook had multiple surgeries on. From as it now seems, it won’t be a very severe injury, at least not one that will require another surgery but we will have to wait for an official word from the Thunder to be certain.
Lots of scenarios have already started making their appearance. Westbrook has appeared in just 37 games up to now this season due to injury issues. Of course, he also missed the biggest chunk of the playoffs last season due to a knee injury and that pretty much doomed OKC’s chances to make it to the top. With Westbrook projected to miss some more time now, for the next few weeks which remain till the end of the season, how can the Thunder survive? And on top of that, even if Westbrook returns but he is not at his 100 percent for the playoffs, can the Thunder really make it to the top this season?
As it was clearly exposed last year, Kevin Durant can lead the team, he can put up huge performances but he can’t really take the Thunder to the highest level. Especially this season that the competiveness level in the Western Conference has really picked up, things will get even tougher for OCK, if Westbrook is not able to play or if he is not at his best. The Thunder will need their entire firepower to make it to the top, if they ever can win every other team in the West. Playing without Westbrook would translate in much fewer odds for their championship ambitions.
Thankfully, the first reports from the team’s medical staff state that Westbrook suffered a sprain and not a meniscus injury, like the injury report stated the previous times. Although he seemed to be in pain when the incident happened, he left the arena walking just fine. He could even suit up for the next game of the Thunder. The 25 – year old superstar stated:
“It feels good, I won’t know much more until tomorrow, but as of right now, I feel good. No, I don’t expect to miss no time.”
Of course, the team will have to clear him out before he gets activated for one of the next games. So we can’t really say anything more at this point of time other than that we have to wait for the official word from the Thunder’s side.
The certain fact is that OKC has to be ready in case Westbrook misses more time, even some playoff games. As we’ve seen throughout the 2013-2014 campaign up to now, Westbrook’s knee gives him lots of trouble. Even if he returns to action, he could re – injury his knee by the end of the season or he might not be at his 100 percent. This could translate in the loss of the second seed for the Thunder, who currently stand three games ahead of the third – seeded Los Angeles Clippers.
Of course, we shouldn’t neglect the presence of Kevin Durant in the team, who wrote history last night. KD finished with 51 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and became the first player to record these numbers in a game since Michael Jordan in 1992. However, I am sure Thunder fans didn’t care much about Duran’t heroics. In fact, even the double – overtime victory against the Raptors didn’t seem to matter much. The attention of the entire OKC nation is turned towards the postseason. In fact, whatever happens until then, victories or losses don’t matter that much. The team needs to have all its weapons available and at their best once the postseason starts.
To make things even more serious, the Thunder will most probably not have an easy first – round matchup this year. The Memphis Grizzlies currently sit at the eighth seed in the West but they could climb one spot till the end of the regular season and be the matchup for OCK in the first leg. Memphis won’t be an easy opponent at all. In fact, they might be the team to avoid for the top – seeded ones in the West.
The Dallas Mavericks, who currently stand at the seventh spot is another potential first – round matchup for the Thunder and although they seem to be less dangerous than the Grizzlies, if the Thunder don’t have Westbrook in their lineup, things could get tricky.
Westbrook is set to undergo an MRI test today and only after that and the examination from the team’s medical staff will we be sure about the severity of his injury. If it’s a light sprain, he could stay out of action for about two weeks. However, if the diagnosis reveals a more serious injury, Westbrook could miss some playoff time. Of course, the last thing the Thunder want is to rush their superstar back and risk a setback.
The truth is that the Thunder player really well during the time Westbrook was out, earlier in the season. So you may ask yourself, does the team really need him that much? Can’t the Thunder just go on and win it all, even without Westbrook? Well, the truth is that OKC found much success when their starting point guard was out of action and that was mainly thanks to Durant’s monster performances. However, especially after the 2013 Playoffs, when it was exposed that Durant can’t lead the team towards the top by himself, it’s fair to say that the Thunder really need Westbrook. The regular season is vastly different from the playoffs. That’s exactly when OKC has to be at its best and that’s why the team will need Russell Westbrook.