Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season seemed to be taking off, after some fortuitous trade deadline activity — netting them Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin — they’ve hit another setback.
Reigning MVP Kevin Durant is sidelined indefinitely after a minor surgery, done to repair a screw in his foot, which was put there earlier in the season due to a Jones fracture. Durant has missed 29 of the Thunder’s 56 games this season, with his protracted absences being a major reason why they’ve had to claw at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, after many forecasted them to win conference — or even a championship — in October.
Durant will be re-evaluated in another week, according to ESPN’s Royce Young, but the expectation is that No. 35 will be back to the floor before the regular season is over.
More alarming than the Thunder’s prospects for this season, though, is the state of Durant’s body. The Jones fracture has undone men before K.D., and many believed OKC was rushing their star back to action when Durant returned on December 2. It may seem like a win-now moment for the Thunder after two straight postseason runs spoiled by bad injury luck, but no single-season goal could possibly be as important as the long-term health of one the game’s most gifted scorers ever.
Regardless of how OKC handles Durant’s continued foot issues, though, there’s this to lean on: Teammate Russell Westbrook is having an MVP-like season, leading his team to victories with a 29.24 player efficiency rating that currently ranks second in the league.
And with the new weapons they have in Kanter, Singler and Augustin, K.D. should take his sweet, sweet time as the Thunder look prepared to hold strong to the West’s eighth playoff spot. Their competition for the seed has taken a hit, as the recently reshuffled Phoenix Suns attempt a recalibration at the worst possible time and the New Orleans Pelicans sink without the injured Anthony Davis.
— John Wilmes