By Jay Betsill
The Oklahoma City Thunder entered the 2014-15 NBA season knowing that they would be without league MVP Kevin Durant after it was determined that he had a broken bone at the base of the small toe back on October 11th. Durant, who averaged 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 81 games last season when the team advanced to the Western Conference finals, had missed only 16 games during his seven-year career heading into this season.
“It’s definitely a different experience for me,” said Durant, who is not expected to return to the lineup until late November at the earliest. “I’ve never been injured before, but the Thunder’s been great to get me to the best surgeon, and rehab has been going well so far. Everything is progressing, and I’m looking forward to these next few weeks of getting better.”
Without Durant, the Thunder lost the season opener 106-89 to the Portland Trail Blazers. All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who missed 36 games last season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus was expected to shoulder the load for the Thunder, led the way with 38 points on opening night, but he was injured in Thursday’s 93-90 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers. Westbrook had surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand Saturday and will be sidelined at least four weeks, the team announced.
The short-handed Thunder also have also been without forwards Mitch McGary (foot), Anthony Morrow (sprained MCL) and Grant Jerrett (ankle) guards Reggie Jackson (ankle) and Jeremy Lamb (back).
“The circumstances that we’re being presented with right now are temporary,” general manager Sam Presti said told ESPN.com “It’s our job to eliminate the dramatics and harness our mentality and make sure that we’re productively using the time so that when those guys do come back and we start to get our full complement of players, we have built a collective mentality and momentum that’s only going to be accelerated when we get our group together.”
Saturday night, the Thunder earned their first win of the season with a 102-91 win over the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Serge Ibaka led the way with 23 points and Kendrick Perkins added 17 for the Thunder, who won while having just eight players available for head coach Scott Brooks.
Upcoming games for the Thunder include road contests at Brooklyn (11/3) and Toronto (11/4) before returning home to play Memphis (11/7).
11/3 @Nets 6:30 pm
11/4 @Raptors 6:30 pm
11/7 vs Grizzlies 7:00 pm
11/9 vs Kings 6:00 pm