Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook takes a break on the court against the Houston Rockets in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City.

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.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.