Tag Archives: knee

Thunder At A Glance – 13 September 2018

img_4063Royce Young (ESPN) on the news of Russell Westbrook having arthroscopic knee surgery on his right knee: “Westbrook experienced some stiffness in the knee over the past week during individual workouts while preparing for training camp. He elected to have a standard scope as a pre-emptive “maintenance” procedure rather than potentially dealing with issues throughout the season.”

Erik Horne (NewsOK) talks to NBATV about the Westbrook surgery. 

OKCThunder.com looks at the summer that Alex Abrines had: “Abrines took the leap with his longtime girlfriend Carla this summer, and the Thunder will be looking for him to do the same on the court heading into training camp and the 2018-19 campaign. In a league that relies massively on shooting and playmaking from the perimeter, Abrines holds the qualities that could make him a crucial member of the rotation. The key, however, is for those offensive gifts to be combined with a defensive integrity and versatility that fits into the Thunder’s gameplan.” Continue reading Thunder At A Glance – 13 September 2018

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Westbrook, Minutes, Playoffs, and Questions

westbrook thunder

In last Tuesday’s game, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the middle of the tightly contested game with playoff implications, decided to sit Russell Westbrook for the first 3 minutes of overtime. He had already played 31 minutes in regulation and the Thunder were sticking to their strict minutes restriction diet of only 32 minutes for Westbrook. In that 3 minutes span, the Thunder fell behind by 7 points to the Mavericks and never recovered. Look, I get it. In the grand scheme of things, a loss in game 71 of the regular season when the team basically has either the No. 1 or 2 seed in the Western Conference locked up pales in comparison to losing your 2nd best player for an extended period of time. But the plan the Thunder are using not only confuses me, but also worries me.

The minutes restriction plan is pretty self evident. The Thunder want to restrict Westbrook’s minutes to reduce the wear on his knee during the regular season. As in everything in life, though, the tough question is, “What is the end game?” Due to the Thunder organization’s tight-lipped nature, its hard to know what the Thunder are thinking moving forward. Since returning on February 20th, Westbrook has averaged 26.7 minutes per game in the 13 games he’s played. Now let’s say he continues on this charted track of minutes played for the remaining 11 games of the season (of which he’ll probably only play about 8). When the playoffs arrive, is he realistically going to jump from 28-32 minutes per game to 38-40 minutes per game? Wouldn’t that kind of bump in playing time have the same effect on the knee as his first return did in the beginning of the season?

This is worrisome because it seems that Westbrook, at 25 years of age, is on a similar rest plan as Dwayne Wade, who is 7 years Westbrook’s senior. Is this a cautious move by the Thunder to preserve Westbrook’s career or is there something still going on with Westbrook’s knee? It’s a scenario that leads not just to one elephant in the room, but a herd of them.

westbrook wade thunder heat

Elephant #1 – What happens if a playoff game goes into overtime? Double overtime? Or further? Playoff basketball is coming and the intensity ratchets up. We saw that in the double overtime thriller that was the Raptors game and the overtime loss in the Mavs game. A coach can never take into account overtime when they are thinking about a minutes restriction plan. Scott Brooks can’t play Westbrook 36 minutes and then take him out the final two minutes of a game using the thought process that “the game might go into overtime”. What happens if Game 4 of the 2011 West Semi-Finals repeats itself? If you don’t remember, that was the triple overtime classic the Thunder won in Memphis.

Elephant #2 – Speaking of Wade, what happens if Westbrook’s knee flares up and/or swells? The last 2 times that happened, the Thunder sent Westbrook to the operating room. True, the first time was a loose stitch. And the second time may have a precautionary procedure for loose bodies in the knee. What happens the third time the knee swells, though? Will the Thunder sacrifice Russell’s future for immediate success if a championship is at stake?

Elephant #3 – If Westbrook is forced to sit, how will this affect the team’s rhythm? As we’ve seen in this slew of back to backs, the Thunder are a different team with Westbrook on the floor. That change in rhythm can work in the regular season where you may play a good team one night and a terrible team the next. But in the playoffs, where an opponent has ample time to game plan for most scenarios, that change in rhythm can be a huge hindrance to the Thunder.

durant westbrook thunder bench

There are a ton of questions regarding the Westbrook knee situation. It is uncharted territory, not only for Westbrook and the Thunder, but also for the fans of the team. The organization will always protect itself. If Westbrook reinjures himself or if his knee swells up, I don’t think the Thunder would hesitate in shutting him down and protecting their asset for the future. But it’s the way they are setting it up that worries me. Now, I’m no doctor and I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express lately, but to have a guy with a recently repaired knee go from playing 28 minutes in the 20 games leading up to the playoff to 38-40 minutes in the playoffs, seems like a recipe for disaster to me. Hopefully, the team increases Westbrook’s work load in these last 11 games so the jump in minutes in the playoffs won’t be a shock to Westbrook’s body (knee).

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 64 of 82)

westbrook durant thunder rockets

  • When: Tuesday, 11 March 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

There are so many narratives to this game, I’m just going to bullet point every one of them:

  • Russell Westbrook vs. Patrick Beverly – When Oklahoma City fans look at Beverly, we see the franchise’s mortality in the balance, at least for this core group of players (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Collison). Everything was going great for the first 5 seasons in OKC (steady  progression, draft picks working out, player development, and, most importantly, health). But that all came crashing down on April 25, 2013, when Westbrook had to go under the knife for a meniscus tear suffered the night before. The tear, caused by Beverly’s reckless attempt at stealing the ball as Westbrook was calling for a routine ‘across the timeline’ timeout, caused the Thunder, who were considered to be title contenders, to flame out in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

westbrook thunder rockets

This will be the first meeting between Westbrook and Beverly since the knee injury in last season’s playoffs. I would not expect any retaliation from Westbrook, as he has stated time and time again that he has no issues with Beverly personally. But OKC fans remember, everytime they see Beverly, that this is the man that not only crashed into Westbrook’s knee, but also, possibly, crashed into the Thunder’s chance at winning a title in the future.

  • Perimeter defense – If the Thunder continue with the same issues they had with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns, then they might be in for a long night against the Rockets. While those other teams had great 3-point shooters and good dribble-penetrators, the Rockets add another wrinkle to that mix: Dwight Howard. None of those teams had the inside presence that the Rockets have. Add to that the fact that our “Dwight-stopper” is currently out with injury, and that could possibly compound the situation.

Remember, the Rockets did hang 73 on the Thunder in one half in their last game. In that half, they made 11 three-pointers (8 in the 2nd quarter). That 2nd quarter was very reminiscent to what happened to the Thunder in the last two 3rd quarters. In those 3 quarters, the Thunder gave up an average of 39 points, which can be a back breaker that can be very difficult to come back from. The good news from that last Rockets’ game was what happened in the 2nd half. The Thunder buckled down on defense and allowed the Rockets to score only 19 points for the entire 2nd half. They will need to find some sort of middle ground to balance themselves out.

  • Rumors of selfishness – If there is one that thing has never really surfaced in the first 5 1/2 seasons of Thunder basketball, it’s rumors of selfishness. Now, athletes are selfish in nature to begin with. But there has never been any rumblings of selfishness affecting the Thunder’s culture and their play on the court. That came to a head in recent days, with Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman writing:

This team is no longer playing for each other. Too many guys have different agendas. Too many are doing their own thing. Too many are playing for the wrong reasons. Kevin Durant is gunning for his first most valuable player award. Reggie Jackson is playing for a lucrative extension this summer.Russell Westbrook is working himself back into shape. It’s selfish basketball, the kind we’ve rarely seen take shape in OKC. It doesn’t define all 48 minutes. But it’s seen in stretches. Far too many of them.

In addition, interviews in the last couple of days with Nick Collison and Derek Fisher, two of the elder statesmen of the team, don’t exactly ooze with words of team chemistry and kumbaya. This could just simply be a bump in the road or it could be more. It will be very interesting to see how the team responds tonight as they play one of their chief rivals in the conference.

  • James Harden – He’s coming to town once again. Nuff said.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Houston Rockets

  • PG – Patrick Beverly
  • SG – James Harden
  • SF – Chandler Parsons
  • PF – Terrence Jones
  • C – Dwight Howard

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Perry Jones III
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

Turnovers – Houston is a team that feasts on turnovers. They have an extremely athletic team that can turn and run on a dime. They usually have 3 capable ball handlers on the floor at all times. If the Thunder can limit the turnovers, then it’ll limit the opportunities the Rockets have on the offensive end of the floor.

harden ibaka thunder rockets

Defending the paint – In the last 2 games, the Thunder have given up 92 points in the paint! Also, the Suns and Lakers combined to take 69 free throws. Add those two things up and what does it equal??? Crappy defense. The perimeter players are playing the vaunted Ole’ defense, while the post players are either too slow on their rotations or hacking the drivers to send them to the line.

Stopping Runs – The Thunder’s defense the last two games hasn’t necessarily been horrible for the full 48 minutes. Where they’ve suffered has been in stopping runs, especially when a team/player gets hot from the perimeter. Houston has a handful of players that can get scorching hot from the perimeter.

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 30 of 82)

durant harden thunder rockets

  • When: Sunday, 29 December 2013 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

We’ve seen this script before. The Oklahoma City Thunder facing the Houston Rockets in a game without Russell Westbrook. This is the second game for the Thunder without Russell Westbrook after his 2nd arthroscopic knee surgery in less than 3 months. They eeked out a win on the road against the Charlotte Bobcats, 89-85, in their last game. In the game, Kevin Durant had 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Thabo Sefolosha had possibly his best offensive game of the season with 12 points on 3/5 shooting from the 3-point line.

The Thunder won the season series against the Rockets 2-1 last season and then met them in the first round of the playoffs. The Thunder ended up winning the series 4-2, but lost Russell Westbrook after Game 2 to a torn meniscus that required surgery.

The Opponent

lin howard harden rockets

The Houston Rockets come into the game with a 21-11 record and a 3 game win streak. They are the 3rd highest scoring team in the NBA at 106.3 points per game, but are only 20th in opponent ppg, giving up an average of 101.8 points per game. Offensively, the Rockets are a full throttle attacking team, led by former Thunder player James Harden. The 3-wing lineup of Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Harden all have the ability to either penetrate into the lane, draw fouls, and make 3’s. Inside, free agent acquisition Dwight Howard is starting to look like the Howard of the Orlando days and not the oft-injured Howard of last season. He’s a walking double double machine, and provides them with semblance of defense. The bench is veteran-laden and scrappy, with players like Francisco Garcia, Aaron Brooks, and Omri Casspi getting minutes for them.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Houston Rockets

  • PG – Jeremy Lin
  • SG – James Harden
  • SF – Chandler Parsons
  • PF – Terrence Jones
  • C – Dwight Howard

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Defenders earning their money – This is the reason why Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha have a place in our starting line-up. For games like this. Dwight Howard is the type of center that Perkins is made to handle. He isn’t overly adept at offensive and stays in the post. Steven Adams will also be important in defending Howard, especially if foul trouble comes into play. Sefolosha had a lot of success in the first two meetings between these teams last season holding Harden to 9-33 FG shooting. Then Harden erupted for a career high 46 points in the 3rd game. Harden is the type of player that can get hot quickly, but can also be a chucker that’ll keep shooting to get back his rhythm.

harden sefolosha ibaka thunder rockets

2. Perimeter defense – If Perkins and Adams can handle Howard on the inside, there should be no reason why the perimeter defenders need to stray from the shooters. Houston has almost cloned what Orlando had 3 seasons ago, with Howard in the middle and a bunch of shooters around him. Also, keeping Lin and Harden out of the lane will be extremely important to handling Howard and the shooters.

3. Dribble penetration – While Howard may be known for his defense, the wing players for Houston are definitely not known for their defense. Reggie Jackson, Kevin Durant, and Jeremy Lamb should be able to get through the first line of defense and cause havoc in the paint for the Thunder.

Music and Russell Westbrook’s new setback

westbrook thunder

Sometimes, in difficult times, people turn to music to help ease their struggles. Just jump in the car or slip the headphones on, and let Pandora, Spotify, or whatever you use take you to where you really want to go. That’s how I find myself relating to Russell Westbrook’s latest setback. On December 27th, the Oklahoma City Thunder sent out a press release advising that Russell Westbrook had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and would be out until after the All Star break. The press release stated that while Westbrook had not been experiencing any lingering pain in his knee, there had been some acute swelling that had occurred as of late. The team performed an MRI which showed an area of concern and decided to do the arthroscopic surgery. Those are the current facts the Thunder organization is letting out.

In this song, Jay-Z raps about how he and a cohort got into the drug trade together, but things quickly soured when his friend got picked up by the police. While the premise of the song (drug trafficking, snitching, police involvement, etc) holds no water to the Thunder and their players, hopefully, the chorus is a different story. It was all good just a week ago. In fact, it’s been all great for the past 6 weeks. In that span, the Thunder have gone 17-2 and have undoubtedly joined the ranks as one of the top title contenders in the league. It wasn’t that they were just winning games; they were beginning to throttle and dismantle opponents with their aggressive, attacking brand of basketball. And that was all spearheaded by the return of Russell Westbrook in the 3rd game of the season.

Now, we’re back to where we were in the beginning of the season. The angst that we are feeling now is the same angst that we should have been feeling for the first 4-6 weeks of the season, which was originally the amount of time Westbrook was supposed to be out when he had his first arthroscopic surgery on October 1st. But he came back about 5 weeks earlier than expected and was playing extremely well as of late.

Kevin-Durant-and-Russell-Westbrook thunder

Kevin Durant will never verbally admit it, but he knows that he can’t win a title without a healthy Russell Westbrook. He got a taste of that in the playoffs last season, and will get another swig of that vile flavor for the next 4-6 weeks. As apt as Reggie Jackson has been at handling the starting point guard duties in Westbrook’s absence, he lacks that “it” that drives this team. More specifically, he lacks that “eff you and the horse your rode on” mentality that Westbrook brings to the court that permeates to his teammates through the process of teammate osmosis. Without that, the Thunder are literally a shell of themselves. Now mind you, that shell is better than 75% of the league, but not enough to get the Thunder to the top.

We Thunder fans know what we have in front of us. We know, when the team is healthy, we have one of the top 3 teams in the league, without question. But this is going to hurt. In the span that Westbrook is supposed to be out, we are going to face Portland (three times), Houston (twice, DAMN YOU PATRICK BEVERLY), Minnesota (twice), San Antonio (at their place), Golden State, and Miami (probably twice). Can we beat these teams? Of course. But the margin of error goes down to basically zero when we play these opponents. The measuring stick of the next 4-6 weeks may be completely different than the measuring stick heading into the playoffs if Westbrook comes back healthy. For some of us Thunder fans, a 4-6 week coma may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Everyone loves the back-up quarterback in football. Team execs get wooed by 1-2 game performances during a season and try everything to get that back-up quarterback to be their starter. Sometimes it works. And sometimes a back-up quarterback is just a back-up quarterback. It’s no different in the NBA when it comes to back-up point guards. Three years ago, when the young Thunder were first coming up, everyone was looking at Eric Maynor and wondering, “Wow, he could start for half the teams in the league.” In hindsight, though, Maynor was probably nothing more than a product of not only the system, but also of playing next to James Harden.

reggie jackson thunder

Reggie Jackson recently signed with uber-sport agency CAA in anticipation of his upcoming extension/restricted free agency eligibility. After this season, Reggie Jackson is eligible for an extension from the Thunder. If the Thunder decide to not extend Jackson this offseason, then he enters into restricted free agency in the 2015 offseason, where any team can sign him to an offer sheet and the Thunder have 3 days to match it. The latest example of the “best back-up point guard” getting a lot of love is Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns. For the three season prior to this one, Bledsoe was Chris Paul’s back-up in Los Angeles and even played a lot with Paul in small ball lineups. His athletic style of play garnered many looks from fans on up to team executives. Since Bledsoe is now starting for the Suns, the next guy on that “best back-up point guard” totem pole is Jackson.

Jackson proved his mettle in last season’s playoffs, subbing in for the injured Westbrook, and putting on a Westbrook-lite performance. He has shown some improvement on his mid-range and 3-point shooting and is starting to learn how to manage being a floor general and a scorer. All the media pundits on ESPN, TNT, and NBATV are starting to rave about Jackson and that usually means added exposure. That added exposure usually equates to not only added scrutiny, but also added praise if he continues to perform as he has all season. If Jackson increases his averages during this 4-6 week period, especially against the upcoming competition, he may likely see his bank account skyrocket in the foreseeable future.

Bill Simmons and Patrick Beverly. Yeah, laugh it up fellas. We’ll get the last laugh when its all said and done.

russell-westbrook-dunk-bosh thunder

All three of these songs have different elements of Westbrook’s game and how his knees react to it. If there’s one thing about Westbrook, it’s that he didn’t change his game at all, knees be damned. His first game back he was dunking and flying all over the place. While the timing may have been a bit off and the explosiveness may have gone down by 5%, the game did not change. Westbrook’s only speed is still GO! A mad man on the court that just flies around and revels in the havoc and chaos. But in the end, is Westbrook’s style of play conducive to his future health?

Three surgeries in a little over 8 months. It doesn’t matter if it is a knee or a tooth. If you dig metallic objects into flesh in an invasive fashion three times in an 8 month period, that area is never going to be 100% the same. I think the problem with Westbrook was that he rehabbed from the knee injury, but never got the time to recover. He went directly from rehabbing from the meniscus tear to rehabbing from the arthroscopic surgery to playing his brand of basketball. All that contorting and friction on his knees was dangerous before he suffered an injury. But now, after two surgeries, this was almost bound to happen. He never had a chance to recover from all the surgeries. The future ramifications of this is unknown. Athletes have arthroscopic surgeries all the time, but those that rely heavily on athleticism, tend to suffer the most from repeated surgeries. If there’s one man that can buck the trend, though, I hope it’s Westbrook.

Spinning the Westbrook Setback

russell westbrook chandler parsons thunder rockets

Everything was a go. There may have been a missed game here or there to begin the season, but everything was set for Russell Westbrook to return from his torn meniscus. According to anyone from the Thunder organization who dared to speak, Westbrook was on schedule with his rehab and was starting to mix in some practice time with the team.

But then the news dropped on October 1st, that Westbrook would be needing arthroscopic knee surgery and would be out another 8-10 weeks (a.k.a. the first 4-6 weeks of the season). He had recently been suffering swelling in the knee and the team decided to find the source of the inflammation. It turns out that the meniscus had healed properly, but one of the stitches that was holding the meniscus in place had gotten loose and was bothering the joint to the point of inflammation. If that is truly the case, then that is a bit of good news shrouded in the midst of bad news.

As the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, attack Patrick Beverly.” What? That’s NOT how the saying goes? Oh, okay. Oh, yeah, I remember now. When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade. Would you rather have Westbrook in uniform or on the bench in street clothes? Of course you’d want him on the floor. But considering the circumstances, this may be a blessing in disguise. Here are a few ways, as hard as it may be to imagine them now, that this latest setback could be beneficial for the Thunder come playoff time.

1. It’s October, not April.

From all accounts, Westbrook’s meniscus healed properly and he was on schedule to return before the inflammation occurred. But, there was still the possibility that he would miss some time in the beginning of the season. It’s better that this occurred now, and not in the middle of the season. I would rather the team treat the first half of the season as an extended training camp (assimilating Russell, acclimating the rookies and the young guys, and setting up a consistent rotation) than to have a hiccup happen in February that completely throws the chemistry of the team off heading into the playoffs.

2. More starting and crunch-time experience for Reggie Jackson.

Jackson showed last season what he is capable of. When Westbrook went out with his initial injury in the playoffs, Jackson plugged into the starting lineup almost seamlessly. If he was learning on the fly, he was, indeed, an apt student. In the 9 games that he started in the playoffs, Jackson posted per game averages of 15.3 points, 3.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers on 47.2% FG shooting and 89.7% FT shooting. And most of it was done against the Memphis Grizzlies, the best defensive team in the league.

reggie jackson playoffs

Another component that became apparent was that Jackson was not scared of the moment. On several occasions he had to either ice a game or aid in a comeback from the free throw line. He was nearly perfect from the line in those situations. The stat line Jackson put up is very comparable to the stats Westbrook put up in his first 2 seasons. Jackson’s assists should increase with more familiarity and his shot selection should get better. Continue reading Spinning the Westbrook Setback

The Future Economics of the Lockout

When the owners first started complaining, we were in the beginning of a recession. You started to hear the whispers from the owners that big changes were needed about 3 seasons ago. And the players actually played along with that and actually stated that, “Yes, in this economy, some concessions would need to be made on their parts.” But, I’m pretty sure, their thinking was that by the time the players and the owners actually had to start negotiating (basically 3 years later) that the economy would have been fixed (or at least recovering) by then.

Fast forward to where we are now, and there are actually rumblings that we are entering an even worser recession. So instead of things improving, economically, they will probably begin to get worse for us fans in terms of disposable income. As an owner, if I see that the same system is being kept in place, and I want to stay competitive and get into or stay in the black, I may have to increase ticket prices. And that’s where this starts to affect me, as a John Q. Public fanatic.

You can talk about smart spending (in terms of a team) all you want. But, if you are completely honest with your self, you’ll know that we (the Thunder) got extremely lucky. Portland and OKC basically had the same formula. Tank for a couple seasons. Trade away horrible contracts for draft picks. Try to get lucky in the draft. We picked KD and Russ. They picked Oden and Roy. A couple knee surgeries later, and we are on the brink of becoming dynastic and Portland is on the brink of becoming one of those middle of the road teams (good enough to lose in the first round, but not bad enough to get a significant draft pick).

My question is, should Portland fans have to pay for the bad luck that has been bestowed on their team. Fans eventually tire of middle of the road teams. Once that happens, then those season ticket numbers start to decrease. Once that happens, an owner may be forced to increase ticket prices to meet his/her bottom line. Remember, this could have been OKC’s fate in some alternate universe.

Are you willing to continue paying (paying more) for a system that is broken? Do you know how much quicker Portland could bounce back, if they could’ve either cut Roy/Oden or restructured their deals? And remember, I’m not asking this because I necessarily want to see Portland become elite. I’m asking this because it could easily happen to OKC. As a small market team, you need to ride the highs for as long as possible and stay out of the middle to the lows for as long as possible. In this current system, a tweak of a knee here or a tweak of a back there, and we may be in the same boat.

Oh, and here’s one more thing about this recession talk. Its affecting the whole world, especially Europe. And that’s where it becomes bad for the players. There’s no other league in the world that can offer what the NBA offers. There are rumors that Kobe is looking to sign in Italy for $6.5 million. Do you know how much Kobe made last season? $25 million. And if you sign in China, you have to stay there for the entire season. So, while the “we can play and get paid overseas” thing sounded like a game-changer for the players, its actually enhancing the owners’ position.

So while I may love the NBA and may miss the game if some of the season is missed, I want a deal that keeps ticket prices as low as possible. I haven’t gotten a raise in 3 years at my job. If, for any reason, the owners were forced to hike up ticket prices in the near future, I’m screwed. If the owners and players were really progressive thinkers, they would sign a deal that tilts in the owners’ favor for the first half of the deal, and then tilts back in favor of the players towards the back end of the deal, with the option to revisit the results in the middle of the deal.