It’s not good news.
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.
Warriors forward Draymond Green knows the perceived significance of his argument with teammate Kevin Durant.
“I’ve read a lot about how, is this the end of the run? Or is it over? Or did I ruin it? Or did I force Kevin to leave?” Green said.
But don’t expect Green to bend amid those high stakes.
“I’m not going to change who I am,” Green said.
Anthony Slater of The Athletic:
Green is correct: His emotional, stubborn, feisty style has led to more good than bad both for himself and Golden State. Reigning that in could have adverse effects.
But there’s still room for personal growth. Green can handle some situations, including this one, better without losing his edge. Every level of the organization agreed.
Dwane Casey reportedly holds a grudge toward Raptors president Masai Ujiri for firing him.
Casey got revenge last night, coaching the Pistons to a win at Toronto. Casey called two quality plays in the final seconds, the latter producing Reggie Bullock‘s game-winner.
Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:
A Toronto reporter asked Blake Griffin if it gives Pistons players a degree of confidence in their coach when he gives them those tools to win games.
“We know that. This isn’t like we just discovered this for the first time today,” he said. “We’ve put in plays like that all the time in practice. He demands execution and we executed. Maybe to Toronto fans – or certainly their GM, maybe – it was a surprise. But not to us.”
The win had to be gratifying for Casey. Having his star player take up his greater cause must even more satisfying.
NBA scoring is exploding. Defenses are getting less leeway for physicality. Offenses are more efficient than ever. Pace is at its highest mark in decades.
Except for the Jazz last night.
Utah scored just 68 points in a 50-point loss to the Mavericks. And even that undersells the Jazz’s offensive woes. They played reasonably fast, getting 101 possessions. Their offensive rating – 67.3 – shows just how inept they truly were.
In all, Utah shot 42% on 2-pointers, 17% on 3-pointers and 63% on free throws and committed 22 turnovers.
The Jazz set several milestones for offensive futility:
- Fewest points in a game (68) in nearly two years (68 by Hawks vs. Jazz on Nov. 25, 2016)
- Lowest Basketball-Reference estimated offensive rating in a game (68.8) in more than three years (68.2 by Grizzlies vs. Warriors on Nov. 2, 2015)
- Fewest points in a second half (22) in nearly five years (19 by Rockets vs. Thunder on Jan. 16, 2014)
Comparing across eras can be difficult, but here’s one measure: The Jazz scored 68 points in a season teams are averaging 110.4 points per game.
That output relative to average – -42.4 – is one of the lowest of all-time:
Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are feuding, the possibility of Durant leaving the Warriors in free agency next summer hanging over everything.
Now comes Durant’s brother, Tony – intentionally or not – throwing gasoline on the fire. Again.
Tony posted and deleted these comments on Instagram, via Bleacher Report:
Read too much into vague social-media content at your own peril.
But, man, that sure looks like Tony advising Green just to enjoy Durant masking Green’s problems until Durant leaves the Warriors and leaves Green exposed.