The Thunder began Monday night’s contest against the Nets with just nine healthy players, with injuries to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeremy Lamb, Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary and Grant Jerrett decimating the roster in the early portion of this season.
When it was over, they were down to just eight, as Andre Roberson left with a foot injury that saw him leave on crutches.
The team applied for a roster exception in order to go out and get some help, but it’s a bit of a complicated process that involves an independent physician’s evaluation, and because of that, Oklahoma City is still waiting for league approval, which it hopes will come by Wednesday.
Previously, the Thunder had expected to receive an additional roster spot following Saturday’s game against Denver due to what the league calls a hardship, when four or more players are out at least two consecutive weeks with injuries. Each injured player must miss three straight games within the two weeks.
But because league rules mandate that an independent physician must determine whether the injuries will keep each player out for two consecutive weeks, and the outside doctor didn’t see it that way, the Thunder did not qualify for the exception. The player in question is Anthony Morrow, who is nursing a sprained MCL.
Of course, that means Morrow has a chance to return sooner than the original four-to-six week timeline placed on his recovery. Since that is a possibility, and the rule prohibits players who return early from playing, the Thunder doesn’t want to eliminate a potential opportunity to get Morrow back sooner.
The Thunder are expected to target a point guard once the exception is granted, with names like Ish Smith, John Lucas III, Diante Garrett and Michael Jenkins reportedly at the top of their list.
Oklahoma City is in real danger here, considering the strength of the other teams in the Western Conference. Fall too far behind in the standings, and it may be too late to climb back into the playoff hunt once Durant, Westbrook and the rest of the team finally make it back to full strength.