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.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade on time they faced off 1-on-1: “We was out there killing each other”
James: “We played 1-on-1 one time in our whole life, and it was during the finals. Eastern Conference finals 2010 (they meant the 2010-11 season, that ECF was in May 2011). Our first year.”
Wade: “It was more-so to set a precedent for our teammates because we got our ass kicked the game before, Game 1 by Chicago. They tore us.”
James: “MVP Rose tore our ass up in Chicago, and we came in the next day, we was like we need to set the tone, so we was out there killing each other playing 1-on-1.”
Wade: “We never finished.”
James: “We never finished. We got to the point where (head coach Erik Spoelstra) blew the whistle, like bring it in.”
Wade: “Everybody was just watching us. We was going at it. We competitive, we was going at it, but we was setting a tone for this is how it’s gotta go. You gotta be able to go at this. We’re two of the best players in this game. We going at each other in the Eastern Conference finals right now. We out there killing each other, and this is what ya’ll better do tomorrow. Because we got beat on the boards by 20-something and we have to come with it, and we won four in a row.”
A 2011 Heat practice? There has to be video of this somewhere.
Miami did win that Eastern Conference Finals, but LeBron and Wade should have gone at it again during the NBA Finals, where the Heat lost to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
Report: Rockets’ Luc Mbah a Moute expected to miss 2-3 weeks
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s first inclination might be to shorten his rotation. He should mostly resist it.
Home-court advantage is important, and P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza can play more power forward (with Eric Gordon absorbing more minutes at small forward). But it’s also better to play Troy Williams more now than to wear down the players Houston will rely on in the playoffs, when D’Antoni will surely keep his rotation tight.
PBT Podcast: Early trade deadline breakdown with Dan Feldman
The NBA’s trade market did not collapse after the Jahlil Okafor trade.
There’s more to come, but with the trade deadline is less than two months away, we have more questions than answers. DeAndre Jordan very likely could be on the move from the Clippers (and Lou Williams, too). But what is Memphis going to do about Mark Gasol? New Orleans with DeMarcus Cousins? Oklahoma City with Paul George? And if any of those guys are available, who is a buyer? Cleveland? Milwaukee? Portland?
Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down the high end of the trade market, plus talk about other guys who could be on the move — maybe Nikola Mirotic from Chicago, and what about someone like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Charlotte — before Feb. 8 gets here. The last couple of trade deadlines have been interesting, but will we see a move that changes the landscape of the NBA playoffs in a meaningful way?