As I often tend to do, I was still laying in bed, going through my “morning” routine which includes posting links, reading up on stuff, periodically petting my dog, watching five straight SportsCenters and starting to piece together the day.
I tweeted an awesome video of Lil’ Kendrick Perkins doing some karate, and was about ready to actually start doing something.
Then the email hit my inbox. “RUSSELL WESTBROOK INJURY UPDATE.”
My thoughts upon seeing that: Hmm, that’s weird. I kind of figured he was banged up from Game 2, but he must be questionable or something for Game 3.
I open the email and blammo: “Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook will undergo surgery in the coming days to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, the team announced today.”
My reaction upon reading that: Huh? No. OK, who hacked Thunder PR’s email? (Re-reading the release.) Wait. NO. NO. NO.
I’m still honestly trembling. It’s a completely shattering event. My motor skills still haven’t recovered. I just recently finally ate lunch, and it was a single frozen Eggo. It feels like the day the Thunder traded James Harden, but way different. It’s shocking, it’s landscape-changing, it’s unbelievable. This is OKC’s iron man! This is Russell Westbrook! You could saw his ankle off and he’s still play 40 minutes the next night. He can’t be hurt!
But here we are. Russell Westbrook is out for at least the rest of the opening round series, and maybe more. His timetable is currently unknown and it could go between two weeks and four months. Yeah, Westbrook could come back sooner than later. Confirming what Adrian Wojnarowski already reported, league sources told me Westbrook’s tear isn’t a complete one, but more of the minor side. So there are two options in play: 1) He could get it “cleaned up” and might be able to return, probably at about 60-75 percent, in three weeks or less. Or 2) he could get a complete repair, which would sideline him for about three months.
Considering Westbrook is 24 years old and very clearly a massive part of the Thunder’s long-term future, as painful as it would be, it seems leaning on the safe side not just for the health of the organization, but for Russell personally. You have to remember: This is HIS ordeal. His pain. His career. His future.
“Our first thing is to make sure he gets healthy, make sure he gets that knee back right,” Kevin Durant said today. “He wants to play. This is the playoffs. You don’t want to miss the playoffs, no matter what it is. Russ is an ultimate competitor, but like I said, the only thing I’m worried about is him getting healthy. The basketball part, people put a lot of emphasis on it, but his health is more important to me. So him coming back earlier just to help us out in the playoffs, if it’s not a good idea, he shouldn’t do it.”
That basically echoes the same message from both Scott Brooks and Sam Presti today too. And considering the Thunder always defer to the long view, there’s a good chance the Thunder strap Westbrook to the operating table and force the full repair on him. It would suck so much, but again, this can’t be about the 2013 playoffs. This has to be about not just the health of the Thunder, but more importantly, the health of Russell Westbrook.
The next question is, what now? What happens now? Though it sort of feels like it, the Thunder didn’t get eliminated today. They are still in the thing, still up 2-0 on the Rockets and still should be set to advance.
Obviously the Thunder could be fine. The Thunder can, and I think will, advance through the first round. They can get through the second round too. They could make it back to the Finals, as improbable as that may sound. Why? Because Kevin Durant, that’s why. I wrote it before the season after the Thunder traded away James Harden and it stands even more today: Believe in Kevin Durant. This could be his moment, this could be his time. Like LeBron last postseason when Chris Bosh was hurt and Dwyane Wade was a shell of himself because of knee issues, LeBron went to another level, taking his team to a higher place.
Kevin Durant can do that too. I believe he can. He knows he can.
“I got faith in myself and my team that I can go out there and lead us,” KD said today. “In fact, I know I can. I know I can lead us.”
Down your second best player, the challenge is bigger, and much more daunting. Even if the Thunder made it to the NBA Finals sans Westbrook, could they really beat the Heat? Probably not, but are you really going to give up on them now?
What scares me most is that this team has literally NEVER had to play without Westbrook. If there was any player that you always felt you could count on to play 40 minutes, it was him. The Thunder themselves probably have no idea how to play without him. Are they going to try and do the same things, run the same offense and hope Reggie Jackson can live up to his poor man’s Russell Westbrook title? Or are they going to adjust and refocus the offense around something else? Don’t know. I doubt Scott Brooks knows right now. This is a situation no one could anticipate or plan for.
But now, the Thunder will have to see who they are without the always reliable Westbrook. I’ve said it before, that we don’t really know his true value because he’s always there. We’ve never seen the Thunder struggle to find a spark, to find some energy, to find one of those 8-0 bursts that he so often provides. Because he’s always there. Now, it’s all on Durant. It’s his team, it’s his playoffs. Maybe this what some of you wanted, ye morons of the “Russell Westbrook is a ballhog and should only pass to Durant” guild? For me, even if Durant raises the stakes and averages 45 a game, don’t be fooled: The Thunder aren’t better off without Russ.
That’s another thought that terrifies me. What if the Thunder rally, Durant takes his teammates higher, Reggie Jackson fills in, Serge Ibaka dominates, Kevin Martin steps up — what if all that happens and the Thunder make it to the Finals? Are we really ready to deal with the chatter about the Thunder performing well without Westbrook. This is insanity, I realize, but in a way, I almost want the Thunder to lose four straight the Grizzlies or Clippers, just to PROVE how much Russ means to this team. To PROVE his worth, his value.
(Obviously I don’t really mean that. I think.)
I think back to my conversation with Presti after the Thunder traded Harden and how he told me there are no guarantees. Anything can happen in a season, anything can go right, or wrong. Bad luck, bad calls… injuries. That was part of the rationale in trading Harden: You can’t see the future and keeping him might not have mattered. Ironically, now would sure be a fine time to still have Harden.
Sports are a funny thing. Injuries happen. Patrick Beverley’s play wasn’t dirty and in your fragile, emotional state, don’t try and tell yourself it was. It’s was reckless and dumb, but not dirty. Injuries happen, often in freak, accidental ways. But you deal with them and move on. Winning a championship is tough because of all the hurdles you have to jump to get there. Good teams, tough calls, bad games, off performances, injuries. More than anything, it’s obvious, sometimes you just need a little luck.
Don’t hate on the Brodie. He’ll be back. And he’ll be better than ever.