There’s no way getting around it, no matter how good Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant try to be. Losing Russell Westbrook for a substantial amount of time (about two months) probably means a lot of problems for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have arguably been the best team in the NBA up to this point of the season.
Westbrook tore his lateral meniscus in the playoffs last season, which kept him out of the series against the Memphis Grizzlies (which the Thunder lost in) and the first two regular season games this season. Since he’s come back, the Thunder have been almost unstoppable, while Westbrook is averaging 21.3 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists per game. The Thunder with him won 22 of 26 games.
After the demolition of the New York Knicks on Christmas, the swelling on his knee was increasing, and after a series of MRIs and consultations with physicians, the decision to undergo another surgery was made. This is his third surgery in 8 months – one to fix his torn meniscus and there was also one a month before the season began to take care of a loose stitch.
The bottom line? Westbrook will be out until the All-Star break at least, missing 27 game or more. The Thunder did expect him back later than he actually returned this season as well (November 3), so it won’t be surprising to see him return a bit sooner than everyone expects him to.
Without Westbrook, the Thunder managed to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 89-85 thanks to a big night from Kevin Durant. Reggie Jackson is going to fill in for Westbrook in the lineup, while both Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher will be seeing more playing time, but it’s quite clear that Durant is going to be the man to take most of the extra load in scoring and ball handling, like he did in the playoffs. Unless he gets a lot more help than he did last time around, we’re going to see the Thunder go through a steep decline for the next couple of months.