By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Injuries are a part of the game.
You hear that all the time and the Thunder know the phrase all too well with injuries over the years to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka derailing promising seasons.
It’s unfortunate but it happens, usually not much you can do about it.
So when an injury happens off the court, even just inches off the court and for no good reason, that’s when it becomes very frustrating.
Last night in the 2nd quarter of the Thunder’s eventual 109-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks backup center Enes Kanter fractured a bone in his right forearm when he walked over to the OKC bench and slammed his right hand down hard on the seat.
The impact was enough to fracture a bone halfway between his wrist and elbow. Kanter will undergo further evaluation today but he is likely out of action for 6-8 weeks.
“I'm disappointed personally because I think Enes had been playing very good basketball,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “He'd kind of carved out a niche coming off the bench for us with that second unit. He was a guy that generated offense for us.”
Lots of offense, especially lately. This month Kanter has averaged 17.3 points on 56.8 percent shooting while pulling down 8.8 rebounds. He has become the main scoring threat for the second unit.
Backup point guard Cameron Payne, who leads that group, told reporters Kanter was mostly frustrated at himself.
“He was frustrated because he wanted to play better for the team, for the people in the stands. He’s doin it for the team, he’s doin it for the logo.”
Now more pressure and responsibility will be placed on Payne and really all the other players to help take up the slack from Kanter’s absence.
“We all got something we’re good at,” Payne said, “But Enes was great, what he does in the post, he opens up the floor for everyone so now everyone else has gotta come and bring it every night and whatever they do well…be great at it.”
That includes Donovan and his coaches. They’re going to have to come up with ways to take advantage of OKC’s versatile roster and find other players who can fill roles that may not be used to filling. Donovan said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I think as a coach and for our staff I think it’s really important, with the depth of our team, to try to uncover some different opportunities to see some different things.”
In fact Donovan said Kanter really took advantage of Victor Oladipo’s absence earlier this season to expand his game. Clearly he hopes someone else, maybe Joffrey Lauvergne for instance, may be able to take advantage of Kanter not being in the lineup.
The Thunder aren’t practicing today but Kanter will be further evaluated and his treatment will be refined. When he left the arena last night he was wearing a heavy wrap from his right wrist on up his forearm.
As for the game itself, the Thunder looked like a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back in the first half when they seemed sluggish, The Mavericks had also played the night before and they were playing without four of their main players, Dirk Nowitzki, Wes Matthews, J.J. Barea and Deron Williams but Dallas pushed the Thunder early leading by as many as seven points.
OKC came out hot to start the second half, winning the 3rd quarter 34-18 and then Westbrook just took the game over in the 4th quarter when he scored 17 of his game high 45 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
He did not get a triple-double falling short in rebounds (eight) and assists (three).
“A lot of his passes did not lead to made baskets but he played very well,” Donovan pointed out. “He got the ball to where it needed to go. But he impacts the game in a lot of different ways. Tonight he impacted it with his scoring. The next night it could be assists, the next night it could be rebounding. There’s just a lot of different ways he impacts the game.”
It’s hard to imagine Westbrook being able to do more than he already is but with Kanter out for at least the next month and a half he may have to.
The Thunder will practice Saturday before flying to Cleveland for Sunday afternoon’s game with the Cavaliers.