Good news has been scarce in Oklahoma City this season. First Kevin Durant had to undergo surgery to fix a fracture in his foot, then Russell Westbrook broke his hand in the second game of the season. It all went downhill from there.
Without their two stars, the Thunder have predictably struggled and now sit in last place in the West with a 3-11 record. But the light at the end of the tunnel might be near, as both Westbrook and Durant are expected to return to practice this Saturday. From The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater:
"They had good workouts the last couple days," coach Scott Brooks said.
And the positive injury news didn't stop there. Brooks also revealed that the two superstars will participate in parts of Thunder practice on Saturday afternoon -- the first team work for either since their injuries.
"Probably not any of the contact stuff," Brooks said. "(But) they will go through some of our practice and we'll go from there."
Durant was expected to miss six to eight weeks and has been out a little over five weeks already. Westbrook was set to miss four to six weeks and he's been out a little over three weeks. It seems they are both targeting a return on the most optimistic end of their respective timelines. In fact, Westbrook could make his return by the end of next week:
The two seem to be healing at an accelerated rate and a return by the end of next week -- particularly for Westbrook -- isn't out of the question.
The earliest Westbrook could play would be November 28, as Ish Smith is still under a new 10-day contract under the hardship exception the team was granted because of their multiple injured players.
The Thunder need their stars back as soon as possible if they intend to make the playoffs in the West. The eighth-seeded Phoenix Suns are on pace to win 50 games. Last season the Mavericks had to win 49 games to make the postseason. The Thunder would have to go 46-22 from now on to get to that mark. So the temptation to rush Durant and Westbrook is obvious. But the best thing for the long-term benefit of the franchise would be to err on the side of caution and bring them back slowly. We could have an answer as to what approach the Thunder plan on taking as early as next week.