On Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced the grim news that Russell Westbrook is expected to miss at least the next 27 games, sidelined until the NBA All-Star break. Westbrook underwent his third right knee surgery since injuring it during the 2013 NBA playoffs. It's been a tumultuous nine months for the Thunder, and their suffering can be traced back to a fateful crashing of knees between Westbrook and Patrick Beverley. Here's the moment that started it all when Westbrook tore his lateral meniscus:
The latest setback, expected to force Westbrook to miss a huge portion of the season, is linked to the initial injury when "a player" crashed into his knee, in Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti's words. The Thunder took the long view by repairing his meniscus and ruled him out for the remainder of last year's postseason. There were no reported setbacks through the summer and he was on track to be available for the team at the start of the 2013-2014 season.
Russell Westbrook injury
Russell Westbrook injury
On Oct. 1 the Thunder revealed Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery to address swelling in his right knee caused by a loose stitch. The team announced he would miss the first four-to-six weeks of the regular season to recover from the surgery but were also able to confirm his meniscus had fully healed. Minor bad news with some good news attached.
The setback was surprising, but nothing compared to how far ahead Westbrook was in his recovery. He returned to the Thunder's starting lineup just four games into the season when Oklahoma City faced the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 3. He finished with 21 points and seven assists in 31 minutes played in his first game since tearing his meniscus, and the Thunder were back to business as usual.
Until Westbrook underwent his third right knee surgery in under nine months.
The wording around the latest setback is curious. The Thunder have only revealed that the surgery was "necessary" after his knee showed swelling again. They did not mention the cause for the swelling and revealed something more worrisome: They discovered an "area of concern" he has been playing on this season until this point that did not "previously exist."
Westbrook underwent the MRI on Dec. 23 after swelling occurred to his knee again, but the team cleared him to play against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day as it waited for results. Oklahoma City soundly defeated the Knicks, and Westbrook sat out the entire fourth quarter after notching a triple-double by the end of the third.
His arthroscopic surgery in November was also because of swelling, but a loose stitch was confirmed as the culprit. This time, however, it's "just an issue that had to be dealt with." There's no sigh of relief after something minor like a loose stitch is discovered. There's no direct statement from Presti, but rather roundabout terms attached to a giant two-month timetable.
The Thunder have done well to build up their record through the first trimester of the season, going 23-5 for the Western Conference's second-best winning percentage. An injury in April, a loose stitch in October and a mystery setback in December are cause for concern, though. A team seemingly destined to take over the West with their young core of superstars is still dealing with the ramifications of bumping knees with fate eight months ago .