Russell Westbrook will have to continue his one-man show just a little bit longer. All-Star forward Kevin Durant was evaluated on Wednesday and Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks announced he will miss another “week or two” of action, according to The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry.
Despite Westbrook’s valiant and MVP-like effort over the last month, the Thunder lost their hold of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference following their 120-108 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday.
And as of now, Westbrook will have to carry the majority of the offensive load for at least another week.
Missing the last 10 games, Durant underwent a minor procedure to replace a screw in his right foot on Feb. 22. The screw was originally implanted back in October when the 26-year-old reigning MVP suffered a Jones fracture.
All told Durant’s missed 37 games this season, with the Thunder going 17-21 in his absence. The loss to the Clippers dropped Oklahoma City to 35-29 on the season, with the 36-29 New Orleans Pelicans maintaining a slim half-game lead for the No. 8 spot in the West.
"I'm more just focused on trying to get this pain out of it and coming back when I'm ready, when I'm 100 percent ready," Durant told ESPN last week. "Not trying to force it or not trying to play with pain, just trying to conquer this little stage I'm in right now, which is getting it to stay right, working as hard as I can in the weight room and on the court. It's tough, but I've just got to be ready to go."
Durant’s ridden the pine five different times due to the foot injury this season, and the Thunder have gone 6-4 in his latest prolonged injury stint thanks to otherworldly play from Westbrook.
In March alone, the point guard’s averaged 36.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 10.3 assists and 2.8 steals in four games, locking up a triple-double twice. Westbrook actually managed to improve on his incredible display from last month, when he totaled 31.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists, including four triple-doubles in 13 games.
Assuming he can come back on the early side, Durant’s return would time nicely with the Atlanta Hawks visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday, March 20. Before that, the Thunder host the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves and the 40-26 Chicago Bulls, and then hit the road to face the 41-25 Dallas Mavericks.
Should the Thunder and Durant exercise some extra caution, given his overall health this season, and allow his foot the full two weeks to heal, then Durant could make his way back at the start or middle of a three-game road trip. Oklahoma City will face the No. 6 seed San Antonio Spurs on March 25, then head to the Utah Jazz on March 28, and the Phoenix Suns the next night.
Despite the injuries, Durant is still one of the best all-around players in the league and the Thunder and Westbrook do need his help for a late playoff push.
Though his scoring and rebounding is slightly down to 25.4 points and 6.6 boards per game this season, Durant’s shooting has actually improved to 51 percent overall from the floor, and an excellent 40.3 percent from three-point range.