Oklahoma City Thunder: What's next for OKC with Russell Westbrook's absence extended?

Reggie Jackson is expected to serve as the emergency starter in Westbrook's absence, as he did in the Thunder's final nine playoff games following Westbrook's injury. Beyond that, though, the Thunder's first month and a half has suddenly become one big mystery.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 1, 2013


photo - Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant pose for photos during media day with the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday September  27, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant pose for photos during media day with the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday September 27, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Twenty-three games.

That's how long Russell Westbrook could be sidelined as he heals from a second knee operation, an arthroscopic procedure performed Tuesday in California to remove a stitch that was supposed to sew up the torn lateral meniscus he suffered in the spring but caused chronic swelling when it became loose.

That's the worst-case scenario.

At best, the announced four-to-six week timetable will keep Westbrook on the shelf for 15 games, leaving the Thunder without its perennial All-Star point guard for far longer than anyone thought necessary back when Patrick Beverley crashed into Westbrook's leg.

While in the public eye Tuesday, the Thunder did its best to exude positivity.

“We're not down,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks sold. “We're down a man right now, but we're not down.”

But as players and coaches board Wednesday afternoon's flight that will take them from Oklahoma City to Istanbul, Turkey, for Saturday's preseason opener, the Thunder will have plenty to figure out.

The biggest question, once again, is what now?

Reggie Jackson is expected to serve as the emergency starter in Westbrook's absence, as he did in the Thunder's final nine playoff games following Westbrook's injury. Beyond that, though, the Thunder's first month and a half has suddenly become one big mystery.

* Is Jackson, who as of Tuesday morning still was projected to be the team's sixth man, now ready for a starring role?

* Can Kevin Durant effectively carry the load with defenses loaded up and locked in on him?

* How much does Derek Fisher, now 39, have left in the tank to offer as the presumable backup point guard?

* How good is Jeremy Lamb?

* Does Brooks have a backup plan?

The Thunder's early-season success hinges largely on how these questions are answered.

But the organization, from Thunder general manager Sam Presti to Brooks to Durant, pointed to last year's postseason as a steppingstone that prepared the Thunder for this situation and now stands as a source of confidence.

“We've been in this situation unfortunately where we had to play without him in the past,” Presti said. “I think we'll be more prepared, knowing a lot more about our team and some of the players that were able to perform at the time that we were dealing with this particular situation in the past.


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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