The Thunder lost Chet Holmgren for the season back in August, never seeing the highest draft pick of their rebuild play a single minute this season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed training camp and the first home game this season with an MCL injury before Aleksej Pokusevski (leg), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (ankle), Ousmane Dieng (wrist), and now Kenrich Williams (wrist) has missed significant time for the OKC Thunder during the season.
Recently, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed four straight games with an abdominal strain before being placed in health and safety protocols. Since exiting the league’s protocols, Gilgeous-Alexander has played in two contests as he rests against the Suns on Wednesday, the second night of a back-to-back.
As the Oklahoma City Thunder do what every other NBA team does, managing the load on their max contract point guard dealing with an injury, the rest of the NBA landscape has taken it upon themselves to perpetuate an exhausting narrative.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the wrong end of an exhausting narrative; why the OKC Thunder have beaten these allegations?
As the rest of the NBA world is somehow puzzled by the idea of a star player dealing with an injury not playing in a back-to-back, you can find the answer from the team’s head coach.
Mark Daigneault explained had this injury happened to Gilgeous-Alexander back in October, he would not be playing in games right now. The remedy is to rest, but the Thunder do not have the luxury to rest him with just 16 games left.
That does not sound like a “tanking” team to admit your star needs an extended absence to overcome an injury fully, yet not resting them due to how tight the standings are. That is the opposite of tanking.
The OKC Thunder have had ample chances to pack it in for the year. From being projected to win just 20 games, losing their best draft pick from the rebuild due to a season-ending injury, to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needing to rest to fully heal, and yet they are not firing up the tanks engines.
Instead, they are staying competitive, they are managing a star the way every team does in the modern era and sit a game out of the NBA play-in tournament with that marker within reach.
Managing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s injury is nothing new in the NBA, and it is also impactful long-term for Oklahoma City. Without being cautious, they could further this abdominal injury, and while it would likely not put next season at risk, it would put the summer at risk for SGA. He has proven to use a time period effectively throughout his career to take massive leaps in development.
Keep in mind, while sitting with a 31-35 record, the Thunder are still just a game and a half out of the sixth-worst record in basketball and four and a half out of the fifth-worst record in the league. If Sam Presti were some madman obsessed over higher and higher draft picks at the cost of winning and development, the Thunder would not allow Gilgeous-Alexander to finish the season in the face of a severe injury.
If you continue questioning Oklahoma City’s motives, it proves you are not paying attention.