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How big a setback is the Westbrook injury to the Thunder?

Oct 2, 2013, 12:44 PM EDT

Russell Westbrook AP

It’s not good news.

Russell Westbrook having to go back under the knife because a loose stich in the repair of his torn meniscus was causing irritation, now he’s going to miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season. That puts him back likely some time after Thanksgiving but before Christmas. He’s going to miss 15 games or so, give or take. That’s not good.

But how bad is it?

To hear the Thunder spin it, it’s not that bad. GM Sam Presti was wisely taking the long view when talking to the media on a conference call Tuesday. Here’s his quote, via NBA.com.

“From our standpoint we’d like to have him on the floor as soon as possible,” Presti said during a teleconference Tuesday. “But in this case, although we lost a little bit of time, we gained a tremendous amount of confidence in the actual progression and recovery process of the knee itself.”

He’s right. If Westbrook comes back in December, and even if it takes to the All-Star Game for him to really trust his knee again and start to play like his old self, then the Thunder are a scary team come the playoffs.

But there will be a price to play short term, one that could bite them come the playoffs.

OKC was already a thin team looking for guys like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb to step up big. There were legitimate depth questions before this injury. Now even more pressure falls on Jackson’s shoulders (and Serge Ibaka’s) because defenses will load up on Kevin Durant. They will dare the other Thunder players to beat them.

If Westbrook was to play the first 15 games of the Thunder season, they likely go 12-3 or 11-4. Without him, that could be more like 9-6 or a little worse. If you say “that’s just a couple of wins” remember that two wins separated the two seed from the five seed in the West last season — two wins was the difference between being at home against the struggling Lakers or on the road against the Clippers. In a West six deep with powerful teams, seeding is going to matter come the playoffs.

Ultimately Oklahoma City will be just fine — this is still a team with two elite players at its core that can contend for years to come. But this injury is not a good thing when you think about the Thunder this season.

  1. papichulo55 - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Nice try at a positive spin, but any injury that keeps Westbrook off the court is bad news, period, for the Thunder, and any NBA fan. The natural
    teammate reaction to compensate for his loss might lead to someone else getting hurt, trying to do too much. This War of Attrition thing is getting old. Just give me one
    Playoffs where all of the major players are reasonably healthy. Please?

  2. turnmymicup - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Its a big deal. Westbrook isn’t just the starting PG for the OKC. He’s one of the better point guards in the league right now. With this setback he won’t be in game time shape until mid December. Easy to say other players need to step up but that’s easier said than done.

  3. david407 - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    This is Scott Brooks’ time to show he can actually coach instead of just relying on Durant and Westbrook isos. In the long run this Westbrook injury will actually help them because they might learn how to play team ball

    • antistratfordian - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      [spoiler]Scott Brooks can’t coach.[/spoiler]

  4. asublimeday - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    He just called Derek rose. He has decided to sit out the year.

  5. antistratfordian - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Well obviously this is not good. And if a stitch came out and was floating around, what does that mean for the area it was supposed to hold together? Presti said everything healed perfectly but how factual is that actually?

    Perhaps that statement is as accurate as the Thunder press release from April saying Westbrook underwent “successful” surgery, when he actually underwent unsuccessful surgery.

    “Round and round we go, Jack.”

  6. david407 - Oct 2, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    It’s ok that Westbrook is out, they can run their offense through Kendrick Perkins and have him shoot 15 foot jumpers all day

  7. 00maltliquor - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    Oh man this is not good…please don’t ruin what should be a great NBA season basketball gods! You had last year, leave our players alone this year.

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