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For a while there, it appeared as if Russell Westbrook was going to have to carry the load. To use his own formidable gifts to put together an MVP-worthy month while Kevin Durant slowly and smartly worked his way back from a right foot fracture.
At this point, sadly, it looks as if the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder will have to do the heavy lifting, as both Durant and Westbrook are likely out until the middle of December. Westbrook suffered a fracture in his right hand on Thursday night in OKC’s second game of the season, likely knocking him out for the next four to six weeks.
The early indication is that Russell Westbrook could miss four to six weeks after fracturing the second metacarpal in his right hand Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It could keep the Thunder's electric point guard sidelined through mid-December and add him to an already ridiculously long list of injured Oklahoma City players who are expected to miss the season's first month.
Westbrook appeared to sustain his hand injury with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Thunder's 93-90 loss to the Clippers. After missing a shot in front of the rim, Westbrook went for the offensive rebound but hit his hand against [Kendrick] Perkins' back. Westbrook immediately looked down at his hand and grimaced. As he transitioned on defense, he attempted to shake off the discomfort. But 90 seconds later, Westbrook removed himself from the game and after pausing briefly at the end of the bench darted toward the locker room.
Here’s Perk’s sad recognition:
Kendrick Perkins, upon being told by @DarnellMayberry that collision with Perkins broke Westbrook's hand: "Was that the play? Damn."
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) October 31, 2014
If you believe in basketball karma, then this is a good time to disabuse yourself of that cosmic notion.
The Thunder are a well-meaning, sound group of professionals who were more or less knocked out of championship contention in 2013 and 2014 because of an injury to Westbrook and a lack of depth following a franchise-killing trade involving James Harden. If you believe in corporate karma, then you’re in luck – the team’s owners just about signed up for this by avoiding the luxury tax, dealing Harden, and putting the Thunder in this sort of perilous position.
Then again, assuming that corporate-types are anything more than soulless to begin with is a bit of a stretch.
The Thunder, with reserve guard Reggie Jackson currently nursing an ankle injury, are now down to eight healthy players. The team can legally field so few, but that limited crew won’t be much to sniff at despite its impressive showing against the Clippers on Thursday night. The Thunder’s front office can apply for a “hardship exception” that allows the squad to go over the typically allotted 15 roster spots in order to make up for injured compatriots, but doing as much would no doubt push the squad’s owners into a basketball vs. business decision.
Infuriatingly, owners Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon have always sided with business over basketball.
Currently, the Thunder sit about $1.6 million below the NBA’s luxury tax mark, and even dotting the payroll with minimum-salaried helpers on non-guaranteed contracts would inch the franchise closer and closer to a threshold it abhors. A threshold it gave up the league’s best shooting guard to avoid.
It’s not yet November. The Oklahoma City Thunder could welcome back two of the league’s best players to its roster with three shopping weeks left before Christmas and make up for a lost November with heaps of wins by the time February hits. However, things look rather dour now in OKC, and Perkins’ inadvertent culpability in this has to be more than frustrating for Thunder fans who are aware of the team’s anti-amnesty history. It’s early, though. It’s a long season, and we’re just beginning.
Early on, though … what an awful start to things.
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