After the disappointment that was the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked to erase those bad memories by completing their mission of winning an NBA title in 2014. The Thunder with a 24-5 record this season are in position to do just that, but things got a bit tougher yesterday, when star point guard Russell Westbrook had his right knee scoped.
This is the third time Westbrook has had surgery on that knee. The last time came after getting locked up with Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley in the first round of last year’s playoffs. That injury cost Westbrook the rest of the playoffs, and may have cost the Thunder a second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.
The cupboard isn’ t exactly bare with Reggie Jackson being able to provide the team a young, dynamic replacement, but he’s not Russ. Jackson, has played really well for the most part averaging over 12 points and 3 assists per game off the bench. This could be a blessing in disguise, as many think Jackson is ready to be a star. I agree, but the west is extremely rugged and home court will be very important. Just ask the defending champs how important home court really is.
As good a team, as the Miami Heat are, its highly questionable if they would have won the hardware if they played game 7 at Indiana, or games 6 or 7 in San Antonio. This season the western conference will be even harder to navigate. The Spurs aren’t going down without a fight, and teams like the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors and Blazers, who currently own the league’s best record will tough to beat.
After losing Westbrook in last season’s playoffs, Oklahoma City’s offense hit a wall. Kevin Durant was criticized for not being aggressive enough. Head coach, Scott Brooks was criticized for his play calling, and running sets that took Durant out of his comfort zone more often than not. I partially agreed with these notions, but lets be real. Westbrook is the heart and soul of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not Kevin Durant. As fabulous a player, as Durant is, he lacks the overall intensity and fearlessness that Westbrook possesses. Without his running mate on the floor, Durant struggled. At the most inopportune time.
The maturation of Jackson and players like Jeremy Lamb will be vital for the next month and a half and beyond if the Thunder are going to maintain their lofty position in the west. As Jackson replaces Westbrook in the starting lineup and Lamb looks to supplement the production off the bench that Jackson is usually responsible for. One things for sure. No matter how Jackson, Lamb, and the rest of the Thunder perform with or without Westbrook, all the pressure will be on Kevin Durant. Will he redeem himself from last season’s playoffs? Only time will tell. The Thunder hope that time without Westbrook is short as possible.
- Thunder’s Westbrook out until after All-Star break (nbcsports.com)
- The impact of Russell Westbrook’s injury (espn.go.com)
- Russell Westbrook Has Surgery On His Knee Again (webpronews.com)
- Russell Westbrook Out After Knee Surgery (4umf.com)
- Kevin Durant Can Carry Oklahoma City Thunder Until Russell Westbrook Returns (bleacherreport.com)