Hard to believe it was only 16 months ago the Oklahoma City Thunder lost a hard fought five-game Finals (especially the first four) to the Miami Heat. At the time it seemed like the Thunder would be battling Miami in the 2-3-2 for years to come. They had three of the 20 best players in the league, all under 24, and all poised to get even better than they already were.
Today, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti announced All-NBA point guard Russell Westbrook had arthroscopic knee surgery and is going to miss the first “4-6 weeks” of the regular season. Presti stated the surgery was to reduce swelling, which many have reported was caused by “loose stitch.” That timetable sets Westbrook’s return date at anywhere from just after Thanksgiving to mid-December, and OKC expects him to be at 100% when he does return (for comparison, Chris Paul once tore his meniscus and came back just fine).
In the meantime, OKC will rely on Reggie Jackson, who has proven to be competent but not a true third option on a team that desperately needs one, and the unproven but talented Jeremy Lamb. Also, they have a guy named Kevin Durant who will handle most of the heavy lifting while Westbrook is out, and he’s proven himself to be capable.
The biggest worry for OKC during this time will be keeping up with the Spurs, Grizzlies, Clippers and improved (even though we all hate Dwight) Rockets. The 15-25 games that Westbrook will probably miss could end up coming back to hurt the Thunder in the spring when they’re playing more road playoff games than they’d like (in the Durant/Westbrook era they are 9-17 on the road in the playoffs, 14-7 at home).
However, there is a bit of good news that comes out of this, as Presti stated that the surgery today revealed that the previous meniscus injury is completely healed, so there’s that.