Oklahoma City Thunder Doesn’t Fear Injuries
Lately it seems each passing day brings news of a different NBA player being injured. Whether or not these injuries are on the rise as a result of this post-lockout shortened season, we can all agree they are part of the game of basketball.
Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks suffered serious injuries just as the postseason was getting underway. Both players should return to form in due time; unfortunately, they are out for the duration of the playoffs.
Other young players such as Jeremy Lin, Ricky Rubio and Eric Maynor suffered season-ending injuries this year as well.
Some rebound to their previous level of play after an injury without skipping a beat, while others are never the same (think Tracy McGrady, Brandon Roy and Shaun Livingston just to name a few). In some cases, players have to alter the way they play following an injury.
Given our natural avoidance of doing things that may cause pain, how do NBA players, healthy or otherwise, get past the fear of being hurt on court?
“You just can’t go out there and try not to get hurt,” Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder told HOOPSWORLD. “Just go out there and play. If it happens, then it’s meant to be. Here in the NBA, we have great trainers. If something were to happen, everybody would take care of it. But if anything, I just go out there and be myself and play as hard as I can and whatever happens happens.”
“You never know,” Serge Ibaka said. “You just go and play hard and if it happens, it can go just like that.”
The Rose injury is still fresh on Durant’s mind.
“Being around Derrick last summer in USA basketball, he’s just like me: cool, calm, laid-back guy who works hard, does all the right things, says all the right things,” Durant said. “It’s just tough to see that happen. Unfortunately, you have games where he would get back and then injured again. Such a great competitor like him, a guy who wants to be out on the floor, who loves the game so much… to be away from it because of injuries, it’s tough.”
“For that to happen, just a minor setback for a major comeback for him,” proclaimed an optimistic Durant. “All I can do is pray for him. As soon as it happened, start praying for him and hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”
“It’s hard,” Ibaka said. “One of the guys getting hurt, it’s hard. It’s something we can’t control. If it happens, you never know. You just know like, ‘How do we be ok?’ It’s sad about Derrick for the first game of the playoffs like that and both guys, it’s sad.”
Near the end of the regular season, the Thunder experienced a huge scare of their own when James Harden found himself on the receiving end of thrown elbow belonging to Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers. He suffered a concussion; thankfully, he returned to action by the start of the playoffs. One might think this hit, which did not occur during a basketball play, would cause the fear factor to increase in Harden.
“You can’t be nervous out there,” Harden said. “Just go out there, get the ball and attack and play hard. You can’t worry about getting injured or anything. Even if it was an injury in the flow of the game, it’s still not going to stop me from attacking it and making plays and being aggressive out there.”
We found that many members of the Thunder team adopt a pragmatic approach on the subject of injuries.
“It’s part of the game. You can’t avoid injuries. It’s inevitable, but you don’t wish them on anybody,” Royal Ivey said. “I think playing with that mindset of getting hurt, it’s out of your control. Things happen. Freak injuries happen all the time. You’ve just to go out there with a level head and play hard and try to play the right way and hopefully things turn out.”
“Everybody gets hurt in this league,” Ivey continued. “Nobody can bypass the injury part, it’s part of the game. You don’t prepare for guys going down, but it happens. When it happens, guys got to step up. You don’t wish that on anybody.”
“When anything happens to somebody, it might be a little bit in the back of your mind,” Reggie Jackson shared. “But when you’re out there playing – especially something you love – you just kind of forget about it. I don’t think any of us are really thinking about that, especially when we’re playing.”
“It’s part of the game, unfortunately,” added Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Things happen. It’s tough anytime you lose a player whether he’s a starter or a guy off the bench, it’s tough to overcome. You have to regroup and get to work.”
The debate continues on the subject of any correlation between the number of injuries this season and the crammed schedule. What cannot be argued is the fact that players have not had the usual amount of rest between games or regular practices. Ivey didn’t disagree when we suggested the two may be related.
“Yeah, a lot of things play into it,” Ivey explained. “Fatigue, just guys not getting their rest like a normal season. There’s a lot of things; people’s bodies just being beat down, and just the way you manage your bodies and what you eat, the rest you’re getting. There’s a lot of factors that come into that.”
Few NBA teams have escaped injury this season, and we can be sure future seasons will follow the same fate. It’s the nature of the beast.