This post was written by former Thunderous Intentions editor Chris Shifflett (@ChrisBShifflett). We’re glad to welcome him back for this painful – in more ways than one – retrospective on the various injuries that derailed a promising season for the OKC Thunder.
Untimely injuries are something with which the Thunder are no strangers. Their last two playoff runs were cut short by injuries to Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka respectively. And despite Ibaka being able to return by Game 3 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, Popovich’s Spurs had already claimed a 2-0 series lead, which would eventually become a 4-2 series win.
I wrote an article back when I was the co-editor about how injuries were the biggest threat to the Thunder’s 2015 NBA Championship hopes. Little did I realize how prophetic said article would become.
The Thunder being in the playoff race all the way to the end of the season really speaks volumes about their roster depth. They were even in control of their own playoff destiny up until a 4-game slide put said control into the hands of the Pelicans. The Thunder did their part on the final night of the NBA season by beating the Timberwolves 138-113. Unfortunately, they needed the Spurs to beat the Pelicans in their final game to claim the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It didn’t happen, as the Pelicans claimed that playoff spot with a 108-103 victory.
The Thunder’s entire season turned out to be characterized by injuries, as they suffered through their worst fight with the injury bug since becoming contenders in the OKC era. I have put together a timeline of the season’s injuries to really give you an idea of exactly what the Thunder have been dealing with. Sorry if it gets repetitive, but the injuries felt the same way as the season progressed.
10/29/14: By the time the season opener came around, the Thunder already had six injured players, including:
- Kevin Durant – Jones fracture (right foot)
- Reggie Jackson – Ankle sprain (right ankle)
- Jeremy Lamb – Lower back sprain
- Anthony Morrow – MCL sprain (left knee)
- Mitch McGary – Foot fracture (left foot)
- Grant Jerrett – Surgery (left ankle)
11/1/14: Russell Westbrook – Second metacarpal fracture (right hand)
11/3/14: Reggie Jackson returns after missing 3 games.
11/4/14: Andre Roberson – Foot sprain (left foot)
11/7/14: Jeremy Lamb returns after missing 5 games. Unfortunately…
- Perry Jones – Contusion (right knee)
11/11/14: Anthony Morrow returns after missing 7 games.
11/19/14: Andre Roberson returns after missing 8 games.
11/28/14: Russell Westbrook returns after missing 14 games.
- Grant Jerrett returns after missing 16 games.
12/2/14: Kevin Durant and Mitch McGary both return after missing 17 games apiece.
12/5/14: Perry Jones returns after missing 13 games, making the Thunder injury-free for the first time all season. It wouldn’t last long.
12/16/14: Mitch McGary – Tibia periostitis (left leg) Periostitis is inflammation of the connective tissue surrounding the bone.
12-19-14: Two more players are put on the injury list.
- Kevin Durant – Ankle Sprain (right ankle)
- Kendrick Perkins – Contusion (left knee)
12-21-14: Kendrick Perkins returns after missing 1 game.
12-31-14: Kevin Durant returns after missing 6 games.
1/25/15: Steven Adams – Migraine
1/26/15: Steven Adams returns after missing 1 game. Unfortunately…
- Kevin Durant – Sprained big toe (left foot)
1/31/15: Kevin Durant returns after missing 2 games.
2/2/15: Mitch McGary returns after missing 23 games. Unfortunately…
- Kevin Durant goes back on the injured list for the same big toe sprain that cost him 2 previous games. Plus…
- Perry Jones – Bruise (left ankle)
2/4/15: Perry Jones returns after missing 1 game.
2/6/15: Kevin Durant returns after missing 2 more games, returning the Thunder to full health for only the second time all year. But again, it wouldn’t last long.
2/8/15: Anthony Morrow – Shoulder soreness (right shoulder)
2/9/15: Anthony Morrow returns after missing 1 game. Unfortunately…
- Steven Adams – Fourth metacarpal fracture (right hand)
2/21/15: Kevin Durant – Foot surgery (right foot) [Season-ending injury]
2/24/15: Steve Novak – Appendectomy
2/27/15: Enes Kanter – Thigh contusion (right leg)
3/1/15: Enes Kanter returns after missing 1 game. Unfortunately…
- Russell Westbrook – Zygomatic arch fracture (right side of face)
3/4/15: Russell Westbrook returns after missing 1 game.
3/8/15: Steven Adams returns after missing 11 games.
3/13/15: Steve Novak returns after missing 8 games. Unfortunately…
- Serge Ibaka – Surgery (right knee) [Season-ending injury]
3/20/15: Enes Kanter – Ankle sprain (left ankle)
3/22/15: Enes Kanter returns after missing 1 game. Unfortunately…
- Nick Collison – Ankle Sprain (left ankle)
3/24/15: Andre Roberson – Ankle sprain (left ankle)
4/7/15: Andre Roberson returns after missing 7 games.
4/10/15: Nick Collison returns after missing 9 games.
4/12/15: Perry Jones – Ankle sprain (left ankle)
The last four injuries on the Thunder were exactly the same. Whatever they are doing to their left ankles, they need to slow it down. Maybe the Thunder organization should invest in some neoprene ankle supports like some MMA fighters wear. Although trying to fit shoes over those would be interesting.
I know most Thunder fans wanted to see the Thunder in the postseason again, but I’m personally glad that their nightmare of a season has reached its conclusion. Now the Thunder players can focus on getting some much-needed rest.
Here’s hoping the next season is nothing like this one from an injury standpoint. As the injury bug proved, it can take down any team’s season it desires, no matter how deep their roster.