It had been talked about too much amongst NBA announcers and your friends. Whenever people keep bringing something up, things always seemed to get jinxed. But this streak wouldn’t end. With 394 straight regular season games played, 45 playoff games, and inhuman athleticism, Russell Westbrook’s streak seemed it could go on forever. The guy hasn’t missed a game since high school but will sit out indefinitely, 2 games up on the Rockets, in the first round of the 2013 Playoffs. After losing to the Heat in last year’s Finals, Westbrook will not be lining up against them again this season. I’d be willing to bet everything that Westbrook would rather have lost his streak months ago then have it taken away from him now.
The news that Russell Westbrook will undergo surgery to have his meniscus repaired is as bad for the NBA and Thunder as Westbrook’s fashion. Westbrook is a top 10 player in the NBA and arguably the best point guard. Westbrook’s speed, athleticism, and skill set force opposing to teams to focus on him and attempt to contain him. Patrick Beverly hit the superhuman point guard with some kryptonite in Game 2 of the series tearing his lateral meniscus. The injury leaves Thunder fans wishing that Westbrook’s punch on the scorer’s table after the injury had gone into Beverly’s face, and hoping that the Thunder can somehow persevere.
Westbrook averaged 7.4 assists, 23.2 points, 1.8 steals, and 5.2 rebounds per game. The Thunder will miss every single one of those statistics. There’s no James Harden to take over the point anymore, Eric Maynor was traded to save a few dollars, so Reggie Jackson will now be lining up in Westbrook’s slot. And if you’re saying the Thunder are stupid for making those moves months ago- shut up now. Shoulda, woulda, and coulda don’t win championships and the Thunder secured the number 1 seed in the West just fine. Bad luck got them in this situation, not bad management. Let’s not kid ourselves though, the team won’t rely on Reggie Jackson or need him to play at Westbrook’s level. We have no idea how the Thunder will play without Russell Westbrook because it hasn’t happened in 5 seasons. We do know that Kevin Durant will have to raise his game to a new level to keep his team alive. The scariest thing is that he’s entirely capable.
If you doubt that the Thunder can make it back to the NBA Finals, you are seriously underestimating Kevin Durant. While Durant may not be the best player in the NBA, he’s the second best basketball player on the planet. In case you forgot, Durant just became the youngest player to join the 50-40-90 Fraternity. He shot 51% from the field, 41% from three and 90% from the free throw line. I don’t know of a much harder pledge process than needing those numbers. A pregnant Kim Kardashian has a better chance of getting in her old jeans than someone does of getting into the 50-40-90 club. So, if you give Durant 10-12 more shots a game at his scary efficiency, its not unlikely for him to average 40 points a game. Durant’s 4.6 assists per game alongside only 3.5 turnovers per game prove he knows how to handle the ball. The team will miss Westbrook, but Durant and company can still get to the Finals. If the Durant and D-Wade Gatorade commercial is true, Durant’s going to give everything he has to get back into the Finals. It won’t be easy for them, but it’s not impossible. The Thunder may be down right now, but they aren’t out.
While the Thunder took a major hit in the defense of their western conference crown, the rest of the Western teams chances to make it to the Finals greatly improved. The Thunder entered the playoffs as the favorites to come out of the west, but Westbrook’s injury has evened up the race. The San Antonio Spurs are rolling over the Lakers behind a Tim Duncan who’s proving himself as the best power forward of all time. If anyone can be considered the new favorites it has to be them. The Warriors and Nuggets are lighting the scoreboard, despite both teams having suffered massive injuries themselves (Danillo Gallinari and David Lee). The winner of the Clippers-Grizzlies series (who would play the Thunder if they go on to win next round) suddenly seems like a contender to take the west. Everything is up the air and an argument can be made for every team- besides the Lakers and Rockets. At the beginning of the NBA season it seemed destined to end with the Lakers, Thunder, or Heat as champions. The Lakers are all but done, the Thunder have fallen into the pack, and only the Heat remain the favorites. If Westbrook’s injury has shown us anything, don’t count your chips before their cashed. Everything can change on any given play.