The mood among Thunder fans is a somber one right now after hearing news that Russell Westbrook will be out for the remainder of the playoffs. I give you the Thunderous Intentions staff answering some burning questions regarding the injury and how it affects the Thunder.
1. What was your first thought when you heard Westbrook needed surgery?
Andrew Kennedy: Oh no. I can’t believe this. Didn’t even know it was possible. The Thunder’s title chances are suddenly out the window.
Eli Friedman: My knee jerk-reaction was rough. I was heartbroken, and was just ready to tear up. Thought of ,”boom. There goes all of those finals expectations,” and “No more playoffs run for the Thunder” came to mind. I was totally speechless, I lost for words.
Cyrus Geller: I was in shock, I really was. This is a huge blow to the Thunder and I really am scared at the thought of OKC playing without Russ. He is such a good player, and one of the most dependable guys in the league as well. It was a such shock to find out that he will be gone, because in his career he has never missed a game. The Thunder are really going to struggle without him.
2. How will the Thunder do the rest of the Houston series with Westbrook out?
AK: I think they will still win this series with relative ease. The 2-0 series lead helps a lot with this and I think the team will be really up for the next few games to win them without Russell. Houston’s just not good enough defensively to make it tough enough on the Thunder.
EF: For the Houston series, the Thunder should be just fine. Its not like Houston has any special PG, especially with Lin questionable for Game 3. Anyways, the Thunder still have #35.
CG: I think they will still finish them off in five games. Kevin Durant is just too talented to let the Rockets back into this series. The Thunder will also be playing with a lot of emotion because I believe that Russell is the heart and soul of this team, even more than KD. When a team loses their heart and soul, they will play very inspired basketball.
3. Assuming Westbrook is out for the playoffs, what are the Thunder’s chances at reaching the NBA Finals?
AK: I think there is still a chance but things will get much more difficult earlier than expected. I thought the Thunder were the clear-cut favorites in the West before the injury and now it feels like the Spurs are. Clippers/Grizzlies will be very tough but I think with KD still there is a chance to get past them and possible the Spurs as well.
EF: Slim. I wont say slim to none, because like I said: Oklahoma City still has #35, and a deep young, excited team. I will not be easy getting by San Antonio now though.
CG: I would give them around a 30% chance of actually making it to the finals. If they somehow get there then they will be swept by Miami. The only reason I give them 30% is because of how weak the rest of the west is. After the Rockets series they will probably face the Clippers and OKC has shown that they can beat the Clips pretty easily. Granted they had Westbrook during those games, but the Thunder do have other guys that can play and in my opinion beat the Clippers in seven games. However if they have to play the Spurs after that without Westbrook, then they will probably go down in five or six games to them. OKC is just not as talented without Westbrook, and that really brings them down a couple of levels in this league.
4. Should Westbrook come back if he’s not 100 percent?
AK: I think it would probably be too risky considering the way he plays. Also, it’s hard to imagine Westbrook being very effective if he can’t be the super athlete that makes him so great. His game revolves around his athleticism and without it, what’s the point?
EF: Oklahoma City is so young, and there future is so bright, so probably not. Let him rest up, heal, and then be ready to go for a finals run in the 2013-2014 season.
CG: No. Absolutely not. Westbrook has way too bright of a future to jeopardize it over this one playoffs. Westbrook and KD are only 24 years old. They will have plenty of more chances to get back to the finals. If Russ comes back too early and damages the knee further, he could be out for a lot longer period of time and maybe never come back the same player. I say wait until it is 100% then come back and make another run to the finals with Durant.
5. What kind of numbers will Kevin Durant put up with Westbrook out?
AK: I’m hoping for 35-plus per night and 25-30 shots. I think teams will really focus on doubling him though allowing Duran to flirt with triple-doubles every night. He will be playing huge minutes so expect bigger numbers while being less efficient.
EF: If you look at the situation in New York, its quite similar. Amare Stodimire, the Knicks second option at the time, goes down. And as well know, Carmelo just went on a tear. MVP contender, scoring title, and leading his team to the 2 seed. Hopefully Durant will realize what is at stake, and just puts matters into his own hands. I say Durant averaged 31 or so points a game for the rest of the playoffs.
CG: I think KD will put up 30+ a night. He is going to absorb most of Russell’s shots and because of his incredible ability to shoot, he is going to convert those shots into points. You combine that with the fact that he will be playing with a lot of emotion, I think ‘Angry KD’ is going to show up.
6. Do you see Kevin Martin, Reggie Jackson or Serge Ibaka taking their game to another level with Russ out?
AK: I think they will all step up and do a good job. I’m not sure how long it will last in the playoffs though. They may look great in the Houston series and then start to decline. Ibaka is the one I’m worried about since his production has always been tied so closely with Russ.
EF: I sure hope so. Scott Brooks is counting on it, and so are every Thunder fan. Kevin Martin in particular he has the ability to do so. A great opportunity for Ibaka, Martin, and Jackson to make a name for themselves, and I hope they seize the opportunity.
CG: Honestly I don’t see any of them playing that much greater than they already do. Ibaka has already improved so much over this past year that I doubt he can play much better in this years playoffs. Martin may put up some more numbers, but that doesn’t mean he will play at a higher level. I think he is just going to get more shots, and therefore he will get more points. As for Jackson, I know that the kid is very talented, and by playing starter type minutes he will definitely prove that he is a solid player, but I don’t think he is going to improve his game a lot in this short period of time.