Before the season, Oklahoma City was a prime candidate to challenge for the NBA champion, what with reigning league MVP Kevin Durant and this year’s MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. But prospects in sports can change at the snap of a foot.
In this case, that’s exactly what happened to the Thunders’ title aspirations. Durant, who has been in and out of the lineup much of the season, will be out until the start of next season, meaning that’s about the time OKC can start dreaming of a championship again.
Durant, it was announced Friday, will have bone graft surgery on his ailing right foot and will miss the remainder of the season, Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti announced. No, he was not crying when he did so. Not on the outside, at least.
The procedure, to be done next week, will sideline the 6-foot-11 scoring juggernaut for up to six months.
“With the focus of this process being aimed entirely on Kevin’s long-term health and stability, it was the consensus of the specialists team, in addition to a collective decision by Kevin, his representation and the Thunder, that to address the setback of the fracture site, a bone graft procedure would be the most proactive and recommended approach,” Presti said in a statement. “The bone graft is the standard procedure for the five to eight percent of Jones fracture surgeries that do not initially have success or experience setbacks sometime within the recovery period.”
Historically, the Jones fracture has never limited or altered a player’s ability to return to play. The bone graft is the next step in resolving the injury for the rare cases that don’t experience a full recovery with an inserted screw (92 to 95 percent of initial Jones fracture surgeries are successful).
“While everyone is disappointed that Kevin falls into that group, we are encouraged that the bone graft procedure has historically demonstrated long-term health and stability,” Presti said.
Durant underwent surgery Feb. 23 to attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair the Jones fracture. After the second procedure, Durant was re-evaluated after a week, then re-evaluated again after another week, at which point coach Scott Brooks updated the player’s timetable to a “week or two.”
Durant had intensified his on-court workouts before being removed from basketball activities last week, even returning to participate in parts of practice, including some 3-on-3. But the soreness persisted. He played in only 27 games this season, averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
Westbrook, who has been amazing in Durant’s absence and has had his own health concerns, would need Durant to make a serious run at the title. Without the duo, OKC’s shots are all but gone.