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What Westbrook Injury Means for Thunder
Posted By Joel Brigham On April 26, 2013 @ 1:50 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
It was announced on Friday that Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook would undergo knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus he experienced in the second quarter of a 105-102 Game 2 Thunder win over the 8-seeded Houston Rockets. There is no timetable for his return, which could mean disastrous things for the Thunder’s title aspirations.
Westbrook has been one of the postseason’s best handful of players over the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinals, averaging 24 ppg, 7 apg, and 6.5 rpg, even flirting with a triple-double in the team’s Game 1 victory at home last weekend. There’s no question that his offensive tenacity is a huge reason why the Thunder pushed themselves to the top of the West this season and looked poised for a Finals showdown against the Miami HEAT this June, but without him there’s no question this is now a very different team.
Knowing that, Thunder fans may have to reexamine their expectations for this group, as Westbrook will soon undergo surgery to repair the knee, which very likely will keep him out for the remainder of the postseason.
“Our team is disappointed for Russell. We know what kind of competitor he is, how much he wants to be out there, but it’s a medical decision,” Thunder GM Sam Presti told reporters on Friday. “He obviously wants to play. But at the end of the day, this was a medical decision… Once we were able to gather all of the necessary information and everything was accumulated, it was an easy decision for our medical team.”
While there have been athletes that chose to play through a torn meniscus in the past, doing so risks further injury to the knee, and for a player as young and talented as Westbrook is, that just wasn’t an option. Both he and the Thunder are taking the safer long-term route by getting this fixed immediately, even if it means sacrificing some portion of the Thunder’s more immediate opportunity to make it back to the Finals.
Presti, however, doesn’t believe this knocks the Thunder out of contention.
“Our team as a whole, we’ve got a resilient group of guys, a lot of character within that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they’ve been together,” he said. “We’d expect them to adjust, come together and have different guys step in and play well collectively.”
It will be interesting to see if that’s possible. With an MVP candidate like Kevin Durant running the show, OKC still has to be considered one of the better teams in the conference, but losing Westbrook, who was responsible for almost 21% of the Thunder’s points this year, is obviously a huge blow that changes the landscape of things for this team’s championship aspirations.
Even if they do make the Finals, there will still be the issue of toppling the Miami HEAT, which wasn’t going to be easy in the first place. Consider this one more way in which the dominoes continue to fall perfectly for Miami, and one more way in which the Thunder are choosing to play it safe for the long-term of their organization.
Nobody wanted to see something like this happen to a title contender, but now the Western Conference is more wide open than ever.
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