Russell Westbrook underwent successful surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee on Saturday, Oklahoma City officially announced. He will make a full recovery. That’s the good news if you’re an Oklahoma City Thunder fan.
He will be out for these entire playoffs. That’s the bad news.
The question of his return really couldn’t be known until the surgeon opened up his knee and got a good look at the tear and what kind of repair would be done (remove the damage or sew it up, essentially). There was no timetable given by the Thunder for his return outside of missing this postseason.
Westbrook and the Thunder needed to make the long-term decision here, fix it and not rush him back. Westbrook is 24, Kevin Durant is 24 and both are locked up with long-term deals — the Thunder have a long championship window. They need to think about next season and the five beyond that, not this playoff push.
It appears the Thunder did that.
Reggie Jackson will get the start in Westbrook’s place (and he’s been solid). This could mean more Derek Fisher on the court as well.
The injury occurred midway through the second quarter of the Thunder’s Game 2 win over the Rockets. These playoffs have had a rash of injuries that have sidelined star players — Kobe Bryant, David Lee and of course guys who have been out longer such as Rajon Rondo or Derrick Rose — and it’s sucked some of the joy out of the postseason. This injury opens up the Western Conference, where the Thunder went from the favorites to very beatable.
Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
ESPN sources say Sixers associate head coach Mike D'Antoni is interviewing for the Houston Rockets' coaching job this week
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Sources say Houston will also talk to Frank Vogel as well as part of a Kings-style broad search if the Pacers let Vogel go as many expect.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
Cavs set single-game three-point record in blowout win over Hawks
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.
Report: J.B. Bickerstaff withdraws himself from consideration for Rockets’ coaching job
The Houston Rockets are still searching for a head coach — with Jeff Van Gundy believed to be their top target — but it won’t be J.B. Bickerstaff, who has served as the team’s interim coach since they fired Kevin McHale in November. According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bickerstaff has informed Rockets management that he’s no longer in consideration for the job:
After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Tuesday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials that he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.
Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.
After the Rockets’ disappointing season and disastrous playoff performance — where they lost in five not-very-competitive games to a Stephen Curry-less Warriors —it makes sense that Bickerstaff would rather get a fresh start as an assistant somewhere else, where he could build up his credentials and be a more highly sought-after head coaching candidate in the future. He isn’t a big name, so he likely wouldn’t be able to command as much money as the Rockets’ head coach as a more established figure would be. Given the Rockets’ uncertain future with Dwight Howard almost certain to opt out and not a lot of long-term pieces around James Harden, it’s not the most stable job in the world.