Just four days before the playoffs started, Paul George couldn’t lift his right hand over his head his shoulder he was in so much pain.
George had injured his shoulder back in February and played through the pain, which caused his previously MVP-level play to suffer. While he refused to use it as an excuse in the playoffs, the shoulder clearly bothered him and George’s efficiency dipped (he shot just 31.9 percent from three against Portland). After the Thunder were eliminated in five games, Goerge said he would address the shoulder issue this summer and “come back next season healthy.”
Apparently, that meant surgery — both George and Russell Westbrook underwent surgery recently (and George will undergo one more on his other shoulder). Westbrook will return to basketball activities in a few weeks, George could miss the start of training camp.
Oklahoma City announced the moves, something well Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young of ESPN broke. Here are the details, via the Thunder:
Russell Westbrook underwent successful surgery to repair a ligament on the fourth metacarpophalangeal joint (MCP) of his left hand. Westbrook also had a successful elective arthroscopic procedure on his right knee in preparation for offseason training. The 2016-17 NBA MVP is expected to return to full basketball activities in approximately three weeks.
Paul George had successful elective surgery on his right shoulder to repair a partial thickness supraspinatus tendon tear. George will also address a small labrum tear in his left shoulder with a procedure in the coming weeks. An update on the six-time All-Star’s return-to-play status will be provided prior to the start of the 2019-20 NBA season.
A “partial thickness supraspinatus tendon tear” is what the rest of us call rotator cuff surgery.
Just to be clear, that is four surgeries to the two best players — by far — on the Thunder. While both players should fully recover, it is still less than ideal. We saw what happened as these two played through injuries this past season, with the Thunder losing games down the stretch and falling from the three seed at one point down to the six seed and starting the playoffs on the road.
Westbrook and George are the Thunder offense and their team identity, any delay in the return of either one hurts this team on the court. George averaged 28 points and 8.2 rebounds a game this past season. Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive year with 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 10.7 assists per game.