The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the top teams in the Western Conference of the NBA for the last several years with Kevin Durant as the star. The road the NBA finals just got a lot harder. Early in the preseason Durant has suffered an injury.
Durant was originally drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in 2007 as the number two overall pick. He played well in his rookie season but no amount of play could save the Sonics from being uprooted and shipped off to Oklahoma. Clay Bennett, a Oklahoma City based investor, bought the team and secured an arena in Oklahoma City.
Durant went to the Thunder trainers after a practice with some discomfort in his right foot. After doing all the necessary checks, he was diagnosed with a Jones fracture. The injury will most likely require surgery sidelining him for two months. Without their star player the Thunder go from favorites in the west, to middle of the pack.
The Western Conference is home to the defending NBA champion, San Antonio Spurs. Many thought the Thunder had the best chance of beating the Spurs. In a conference with the rising Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets, the return of Kobe Bryant to the Lakers, and solid LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors, the Thunder face an uphill battle without their main player for the first months of the season.
Durant won the Most Valuable Player award for the first time last season. He beat out the Miami Heat’s reigning MVP LeBron James. He also had a league high 32 points per game last season, edging out James’ 27.1PPG.
Thunder general manager, Sam Presti has not put a time-table on Durant’s recovery. The average return for this common injury is 6-8 weeks. With it being so early in the stage of the injury Presti is reluctant to put a definitive return date. After the surgery is successful the team will address the media and public again with a better idea of when the superstar will return to team activities. Durant is suffering from his first major injury in his career.
With Durant sidelined to start the season the stage is set for Thunder point guard, Russell Westbrook to shine. Westbrook missed six weeks last season due to his own injury and Durant kept the Thunder’s playoff hopes alive in his absence. It is now Westbrook’s turn to do the same for his teammate and for the city.
Westbrook has been one of the league’s top point guards since he entered the league. He has always been number two behind Durant however. Without the all-star on the court, fans will get a chance to see if Westbrook has what it takes to not just be a big scorer, but a court general. With this season being a crucial one for the Thunder to finally win a championship, the pressure is on Westbrook.
For a player that has been largely injury free in his already stellar career, it is a shame to see him go down. With the crucial injury Durant just suffered, the odds are not in the favor of Thunder. The Thunder’s regular season starts Oct 29 in Portland against the Blazers. The Blazers were a playoff team last year, so the Thunder will be tested early.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Keith Allison – Flicker License