Oklahoma City Thunder rookie guard James Harden will miss two to four weeks with a strained right hamstring, coach Scott Brooks said Friday morning.
The Thunder has recalled second-year guard Kyle Weaver from the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League to replace Harden. Brooks said Weaver will be active and in the rotation as the backup shooting guard tonight against New Jersey.
“Like any injury that any team has in this league, you have guys on the team that have to step up,” Brooks said following the team’s morning shoot-around. “And we have enough guys on the team that have stepped up all year, and I don’t anticipate seeing anything different.”
Harden, the No. 3 overall pick out of Arizona State, appeared to have sustained the injury in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game against New Orleans when he landed awkwardly on his right leg following a drive to the basket. Harden remained in the game but played just 14 minutes, his fewest since Dec. 31.
Harden is averaging 9.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, two assists and one steal in 23 minutes while playing in all 63 games this season. If Harden’s absence extends to the high end of the projected two-to-four-week timetable, he should return for the final week of the regular season and be healthy for what is expected to be the Thunder’s first trip to the playoffs.
In the meantime, Brooks said his roster’s versatility is an asset that should keep the Thunder rolling. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook can all play multiple positions.
“We can change the lineup a few different ways,” Brooks said.
Weaver has played in only three games this season after sustaining a shoulder injury in late November. In five games with the 66ers, Weaver averaged 12.4 points, 7.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks in 42.6 minutes.
After keeping track of Weaver’s development — and even attending the 66ers’ home game this past Monday against Fort Wayne and seeing Weaver score 18 points with 10 assists, five rebounds and three assists — Brooks said Weaver is ready to compete.
“It was good for him to go down and play in Tulsa…He looked very good,” Brooks said.
“He’s missed three or 3 1/2 months of NBA basketball so you don’t expect him to be flawless. I just expect his effort to be flawless.”
With Weaver, now healthy, the Thunder isn’t expecting a drop off isn’t while Harden is out. Weaver, at 6-foot-6, can play both guard positions and is as versatile as Harden if not more as a scorer, playmaker and defender.
“I like what Kyle brings,” Brooks said. “He’s a big guard that defends. He has a knack for making incredible defensive plays. You think that he is getting beat, but he always comes from behind and blocks from behind or steals from behind. He has great hands. His anticipation is very good. He’s really changed hid body thanks to our (training staff) here. He’s a strong guard now. He’s not a lanky wing player. I look forward to seeing him playing good basketball.”