First Westbrook, Now Durant As Thunder Ironmen Go Down
By Randy Renner
In the 2009-10 season Thunder starters missed a grand total of six games during the season. Six games TOTAL for the entire starting five.
Last season that number reached 79 with Russell Westbrook missing regular season games for the first time in his career going all the way back to high school. Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins missed significant time too.
And now Kevin Durant's name is added to the list.
Durant will be out six to eight weeks with a "Jones fracture" in his right foot. It's described as a stress fracture that generally occurs over time.
Over the last five seasons no other player in the NBA has been as durable as Durant. He has only missed six games and has played 15,064 minutes in 388 games and has scored 11,356 points. All those numbers are tops in the NBA over that time span.
Durant told the team's medical staff after practice Saturday about an ache in his right foot. Team doctors examined the area and Durant was given an MRI and other tests to determine what was causing the pain.
Thunder GM Sam Presti told reporters the Jones fracture and a subsequent surgery to repair it have become very common among NBA players although Presti said it's not certain yet that Durant will need that surgery.
"All signs point to there being a procedure," Presti said, "but, that's why you have the consultations and we work with the best people possible to get that information. That's what the next few days will be. When we get more information we'll let you guys know but, we're heading in that (surgery) direction."
For now Durant will rest and stay off his right foot while these consultations go on. Presti said "we're really fortunate we're catching it when we're catching it before this became more of an acute issue."
Presti said Durant could have continued playing while dealing with the pain but the stress fracture would just get worse. So dealing with repairing it now is certainly the best course of action.
"As we know our team and the organization have been in situations similar to this in the past and this is when we're at our best. With every adversity we're always looking for where the opportunity is."
With Westbrook's injury the opportunity came to see what backup point guard Reggie Jackson could do and Westbrook's loss also propelled Durant to greater heights.
Now with KD out Westbrook will probably shoulder more of the burden and it creates an opportunity for Perry Jones III to step up as never before because Jones will more than likely start now at small forward, though head coach Scott Brooks will have other options too.
Presti pointed out no one player will be able to replace Durant's 30 points a game scoring that it will take "a collective effort," Presti also said playing better defense will be another way to close the gap.
The Thunder are already dealing with several nagging injuries. Perkins has missed all of training camp so far with a strained quad. Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison have missed the first two preseason games with sprained ankles. Jackson bruised his right wrist at Dallas Friday night and is listed as day-to-day though several days could actually be involved. Jones has had a sprained ankle too, forward Grant Jerrett had off-season foot surgery and has missed all of training camp and camp signee Richard Soloman has missed time with back spasms.
"This is where reality dropped us off, we've had some banged up bodies in camp," Presti said. "It's how we respond, how we react, how we adjust, how we adapt, that's always gonna be the measure of our team and that won't be any different today."
The Thunder have an open roster spot and could bring in another player, Presti said he and his staff "will look at everything" moving forward.
However with the injury Durant has being as common as it is and with all the surgical procedures that have been done to repair it, Presti is as confident as anyone can be with the projected timeline as to his return.
If no other problems develop Durant can be expected to be back on the court by the first or second week of December, missing 17 to 20 games. If things go very well perhaps even a tad sooner, though Presti said the Thunder will be "very cautious," with Durant.
The team also still has two more weeks of training camp to adjust to KD's absence and find ways to, as Presit said, "adjust and adapt."
The timing certainly could have been much, much worse but clearly the Thunder are now staring at their biggest challenge ever and trying not to blink.