After making the Finals in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs early the previous two seasons because of injuries to Russell Westbrook in 2013 and Serge Ibaka in 2014.
Entering the 2014-15 season, the Thunder were considered one of the favourites to come out of the Western Conference. The Thunder received eight votes, second only to the Spurs, in ESPN’s Western Conference champion predictions.
Instead, injuries have shaped the narrative for the Thunder from the beginning of the season, with the team announcing Kevin Durant will miss the rest of the 2014-15 season.
Here’s a timeline of the Thunder’s injuries throughout the season:
- October 12, 2014: The Thunder announce Kevin Durant has a Jones fracture in his right foot, forcing him to miss six to eight weeks.
- October 16, 2014: The Thunder announce Durant has successful surgery on his foot and will be reevaluated in six weeks.
- October 30, 2014: Russell Westbrook breaks a bone in his hand during the second game of the season.
- November 4, 2014: Westbrook undergoes surgery on his right hand and will be reevaluated in four weeks.
- November 5, 2014: The Thunder nearly run out of players in a game as Durant, Westbrook, Anthony Morrow, Andre Roberson, and Jeremy Lamb all missed the game, while Perry Jones left early with an injury.
- November 28, 2014: Westbrook returns.
- December 2, 2014: Durant returns a week or so earlier than expected.
- December 18, 2014: Durant sprains his ankle in the first half of a game against the Warriors and gets listed day-to-day.
- December 31, 2014: Durant returns from his sprained ankle.
- February 22, 2015: Durant has a second surgical procedure on his right foot and is listed as out for one week.
- March 17, 2015: Serge Ibaka undergoes knee surgery, keeping him out four to six weeks, likely the remainder of the season.
- March 20, 2015: Thunder GM Sam Presti says Durant is out indefinitely with foot soreness.
- March 27, 2015: The Thunder announce Durant is out for the season.
With Durant in the lineup, the Thunder have gone 18-9, a .667 win percentage that would put them fourth in the Western Conference.
Westbrook has remained mostly healthy since breaking his hand, and in the second half of the season, he’s gone on a historical run to keep the Thunder afloat. The Thunder have a three-game lead for eighth place in the West, and Westbrook on his own could likely help the Thunder seal the playoffs. However, without Durant and Ibaka, it’d be hard to see Westbrook carrying the team past the first round, particularly against the Warriors.
Three years ago, the Thunder had a young core that looked set to dominate the NBA for years to come. Instead, years of bad injury breaks have kept the team from achieving their true potential.
With Durant set to hit free agency next summer and the intrigue about how he’ll return from an injury-plagued year, the Thunder will have one of the most compelling storylines of 2015-16.
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