And, of course, the league is attempting to lighten everyone’s load this season by extending the All-Star Break. All teams will be off from Feb. 13-18 this year after All-Star participants over the last several years requested more rest.
The Thunder will get a seven-day break for the league’s annual showcase. With Westbrook, Durant and potentially Serge Ibaka all possibly being named to the All-Star team, as well as Anthony Morrow a possible 3-point contestant and Ibaka and Perry Jones III potential slam dunk participants, the Thunder could be among the teams that need the rest most by mid-season.
Of course, there’s enough evidence from the team’s two biggest stars over the last several months to suggest rest for the Thunder will be critical throughout the season.
Westbrook underwent three surgeries in 2013, causing him to miss 36 contests in 2013-14. Before sustaining a torn meniscus Westbrook had never missed a game in his career. When he rejoined the lineup, the team limited him to one game on back-to-back sets as a means to monitor his knee and get him as much rest as possible.
Durant, meanwhile, led the league in total minutes played for the third time in five seasons last year. No player over the past five regular seasons has logged more minutes.
Last week, the reigning league MVP unexpectedly withdrew from the USA Basketball roster that will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. As part of his reasoning, Durant said through a written statement that he needed to “take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”