Reaction flooded in from across the Twitter and NBA worlds on Friday afternoon, when news broke that Thunder guard Russell Westbrook would be out indefinitely with a torn meniscus.
Here’s a compilation of thoughts from some ESPN analysts.
“I think it is real unfortunate. As far as the team goes, it’s going to have a huge impact on how they perform. He’s one of the best guards in the NBA. It’s going to put pressure on their reserve players to step up and perform. Durant will do what he’s been doing, trusting his teammates and continuing to play at a high level. Defenses will start loading up on him even more. Playmaking is going to be important.”
“This is a terrible blow for the Oklahoma City Thunder and for the league for that matter. The laundry list of notable players that have gotten injured during this season is way too long. Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Amar’e Stoudemire, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger and now in the Playoffs, Kobe Bryant, David Lee and now Russell Westbrook. Kevin Durant needs to take the Carmelo Anthony approach. Take around 25-30 shots per game, his team already has a 2-0 lead. The one thing about professional sports, and life for that matter, when opportunity knocks, you have to seize it. So trust me, all of the teams in the Western Conference, their ears perked up today. They feel like they have chance to advance. Houston is no different. For James Harden, continue to score, get assists, lead your basketball team and more important, win one game. Try to find a way to win one game, then all of the pressure will be on Game 4.”
Bill Simmons (via Twitter):
“Such a bummer about Russell Westbrook. Love watching him, hope he comes back sooner than later. All bets are off in the West now. Prepared for anything.”
“This is bad. You are really going to miss a guy that’s able to attack and keep defense on its heels at any given point. Any time he has the ball, he’s a constant threat and he’s coming off the best statistical year of his career. This will also thrust Reggie Jackson in a role he hasn’t been in before from the standpoint of running a team. Now, this is a team that is lacking leadership. They are lacking a guy that is able to have a great one two punch with Kevin Durant. Now teams are going to be able to gear toward Kevin only and load up on him which will make things difficult for Kevin. With Russell on the floor it gives him a little break as well.”
“So many layers here. This obviously looks like another huge break for the Spurs, who are facing the Kobe-less Lakers now and would obviously have a huge edge in a Western Conference finals rematch with OKC if Westbrook can’t make it back by then. Just let me caution, though, that the Thunder have some players (Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin, even Reggie Jackson) who can step up and do more than they’re typically asked to do. They are uniquely equipped to try to compensate for Westbrook’s absence offensively. The question is how will they handle it emotionally as a team. Westbrook never gets hurt. The Thunder have pretty much no experience playing without one of their two stars. They can finish off Houston without him, but OKC’s second-round degree of difficulty — whether it’s the Clippers or the Grizzlies — just spiked significantly.”
“You are going to see their offense change. There’s going to be a lot more screens, a lot more motion. Not as many isolations at the elbow or isolations at the top. You’re going to see Durant have the ball at end of quarters, where most recently we’ve seen Westbrook handling the ball a lot at the end of quarters.”
“This is too big of a blow for Oklahoma City to overcome. People may criticize him for taking bad shots, forcing shots and taking too many shots, but now we will see the importance of his constant attack mode for the Thunder. They can’t win a championship without Russell Westbrook.”