The NBA playoffs just lost some intrigue - and a whole bunch of athleticism.
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook could miss the remainder of the postseason, as the All-Star point guard will undergo surgery for a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, the team announced on Friday. No timetable has been announced for a possible return. Depending on the degree of the tear and how long the Thunder remain in the playoffs, it is thought that the previously indestructible Westbrook could "maybe" return, but that's a Shaquille O'Neal sized 'if' for sure.
The Thunder resumes its first-round series with the Houston Rockets on Saturday. It will be the first game the athletically imposing Westbrook has missed in his entire NBA career after 439 straight games, including the playoffs. Take the iron man angle a step further: he never missed a game in college at UCLA or in high school until now.
Oklahoma City holds a 2-0 lead against Houston. Westbrook scored 29 points in Wednesday's 105-102 win despite suffering the knee injury following a second quarter collision with Rockets guard Patrick Beverley. If the Thunder advances past this series, OKC plays the Clippers-Grizzlies winner.
On the season, Westbrook averaged 23.2 points, 7.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
If indeed Westbrook is out for the duration, the word bummer comes to mind when looking ahead to the remainder of the playoffs. While the No. 1 seeded Thunder were no lock to advance out of the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals, they were indeed the favorite. More than that, with Kevin Durant and Westbrook plus its other skilled and open court weapons, Oklahoma City was thought to be the one team capable of possibly stopping the Miami Heat from repeating as NBA champions.
Therein lays the true basketball sadness of the Westbrook injury for the general hoops-loving world. Sure, the Western Conference race is now a total free-for-all, but the finals is looking more and more like a coronation formality for LeBron James and company.
Then again, the finals are a long, long ways off and the Thunder has other weapons, notably Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin. Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher will take over the point guard duties. If Manu Ginobili can stay healthy and Tim Duncan keeps stepping into the wayback machine, the San Antonio Spurs could give the Heat a series. With the Thunder Westbrook-less, maybe this is the opening Clippers' star Chris Paul needs for a deep playoff run and Los Angeles would have a huge advantage at point guard over Miami.
Yes, this is an attempt at trying to find the postseason silver lining. Not sure there is one on the day the indestructible Westbrook goes down.
At least now we'll see how many Durant score taking 30 or more shots a game. Ice that elbow KD, ice that elbow.