What if Russell Westbrook is never quite as explosive again?

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Russell Westbrook is just 25 years old and diligent about recovery from the meniscus injury he suffered last playoffs. We’ve seen him throw his crutches into the pool, but we’ve now also seen him need a second surgery to clean everything up.

Still, he has said when he comes back he will be the same aggressive, explosive guy he’s always been.

But what if he’s not?

Here in Los Angeles (I nearby in the LBC) there is an interesting weekend morning show on ESPN Radio with former NBA assistant coach Dave Miller and orthopedic surgeon Robert Klapper (Dr. Klapper to you) mostly giving advice to weekend warriors who pull up lame. But they also discuss major sports injuries.

Dr. Klapper said some interesting things about Westbrook, as highlighted by Royce Young at Daily Thunder.

“So this is what’s going on. I want you to think of the meniscus as a slice of apple pie,” Klapper said. “If you tear the meniscus where the tip of the slice is, we clean it up and you’re playing within a few weeks. But, in the case of Russell Westbrook, he tore his meniscus where the crust of the slice of pie is. That’s in an area where we try to repair it when it tears there because there’s good circulation. We call it the red-red zone. Those are the cases, where when you operate, you got to keep the person on crutches, protect their weight-bearing and they’re not coming back right away. So that tells us that the first time they put stitches in, it obviously didn’t work and they’re trying to do it yet again….

“Well, just like real estate, what do they say?” he continued. “Location, location, location. When we are talking about the lateral meniscus, the meniscus on the outside of your knee, versus the medial meniscus, the difference between the two is the lateral meniscus gets all the rotational pivoting when you make maneuvers. And that is Russell Westbrook’s game. It’s not just a pounding structure, it’s actually a rotatory stabilizer. So his game is absolutely going to be impacted because it’s the lateral meniscus and not the medial meniscus.”

Thunder fans should take a deep breath… but yes, I’d be worried a little.

Klapper was not involved in the Westbrook surgeries nor has he consulted on this case, so take it with salt if you wish. But the question he raises is one that should worry Thunder fans:

What if Westbrook just is not the same?

Here’s the dirty little secret about the Thunder — their sets are simplistic. They can get away with that, especially in the regular season, because they have the best pure scorer on the planet in Kevin Durant and the explosive Westbrook. If you blow up their sets, one of those two go isolation and score at a rate most teams can’t match. (It’s more complex than that; this is the one paragraph synopsis.)

But what happens if Westbrook loses just half a step? Especially since there is no James Harden or even Kevin Martin to soak up those possessions.

The Thunder have a lot of questions to answer. So does Westbrook when he returns.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.

Allen Iverson breaks down MVP race (he’d give it to Westbrook)

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The polls are closed, and the voting is already in on the NBA Most Valuable Player race, however, we’re all going to have to wait until June 26 to find out the result. So the debate rages on, with playoff performances shaping the narrative.

Why not ask a former MVP and Hall of Famer?

Allen Iverson told Bleacher Report he would pick Westbrook for MVP. Then he broke down the candidates.

I just think (Westbrook’s) headed to doing something that we never thought would happen again [in averaging a triple-double throughout a season]…

[Kawhi Leonard]’s the best two-way player in the league, plays the game the right way. Well, if you play with Pop [Gregg Popovich], then you’re going to play the game the right way anyways. But he does everything on the floor to help his team win. Right there in the MVP race. In any other season, I think him or James [Harden]—LeBron [James], you could give it to him every year.

But this year, it’s just one of those years for Westbrook, and we should cherish it and love it for what it is, because we never thought this would happen again, just like we never thought nobody will score 100 points like Wilt [Chamberlain] again.

It’s one of them years like you’re supposed to give that to him hands down with the great season those guys are having. I mean, Isaiah [Thomas] has been playing the way he’s been playing. [Kevin] Durant’s been playing the way he’s been playing. A lot of guys are having MVP seasons, but this guy’s just having a special season.

The MVP debate isn’t over because there isn’t one right answer — Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard all have a legitimate case. One is not vastly superior to the other, and LeBron James should be in the discussion as well (but the late fade by the Cavs hurt him). That said, a lot of former players seem to side with Iverson in the Westbrook camp.

You should read the entire interview, Iverson talks about his crossover and if Isaiah Thomas should be called for it (you have to know how AI answered that), the evolution of the game, and much more.

It’s a great read. Regardless of who you think should be MVP.