The NBA record for most injured players at one time is unknown, but whatever that number is, the Thunder has to be flirting with it.
Already missing Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary, and Grant Jerrett, Oklahoma City was dealt another crushing blow Thursday night in Los Angeles. All-world point guard Russell Westbrook left the game in the second quarter and with what coach Scott Brooks called “a small fracture in his hand.” Brooks added that the Thunder will re-evaluate Westbrook on Friday and that no timetable is currently known for his return.
Once Westbrook went down on Thursday, the Thunder had only eight healthy players remaining – and only two guards.
“That's the way it is,” Brooks said after the game. “We have to figure out how to continue to improve and get better from all of our experiences.”
There were plenty of bright spots in Thursday's experience. Perry Jones dropped a career-high 32 and looked like he could end up playing a big role this season. The Thunder also fought one of the NBA's top squads until the final seconds with a group of role players and journeymen. But no amount of optimism can put the ball into the basket…or even fill a rotation with healthy bodies.
When Durant and Morrow's injuries were announced, most folks succumbed to the fact the OKC would find itself in an early-season hole, but nothing that would be insurmountable once the MVP returned. But if Westbrook is forced to miss significant time, one has to wonder just how deep the Thunder's hole is going to be.
The Thunder won 59 games last season and earned the West's No. 2 seed. The Phoenix Suns won 48 games and didn't make the playoffs. Think about that. The West's No. 9 seed was 14 games above .500 and wound up in the lottery. With the much-improved Pelicans and Nuggets likely to be added to that playoff race, it's fair to project that at least three good teams will miss the postseason in the NBA's varsity conference.
It's still way too early to suggest that the Thunder will be one of those three. After all, this team is arguably the NBA's best when fully-loaded. But this rash of injuries is nothing short of unbelievable and from here until the team is healthy, Thunder fans will tune in every night wondering who's going down next.