Thunder Shut Down Durant, Return This Season in Doubt
Reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant likely won't return this season.
General manager Sam Presti said Friday that Durant still has pain in his right foot, well after he was expected to be ready to return. When asked if the best thing would be best to shut him down for the season, Presti said: "Essentially, that's the direction that we're taking right now, in terms of removing him from all basketball-related activities."
Oklahoma City now faces the prospect of trying to make the playoffs without the four-time scoring champion. The Thunder led the New Orleans Pelicans by a game for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoffs heading into Friday night's games.
Durant is averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists, but he's played in just 27 of the team's 68 games this season. He last played Feb. 19 against Memphis and had surgery three days later to replace a screw that was causing discomfort in the right foot that he broke during the preseason. At the time, Brooks said Durant could return to the lineup in 1-2 weeks.
The Thunder had hoped to get a boost from Durant's return, but Presti said Durant's long-term health is his primary concern. Presti said he's unsure of the source of the current pain, so Durant will see specialists in the coming days.
"He's not making the progress that we had hoped and anticipated him making," Presti said. "He still has some soreness in his foot, and the protocol that's in place calls for him to be able to compete on the floor without that at this stage."
This is just the latest in a barrage of bad news the Thunder have dealt with this season. Serge Ibaka, a versatile forward who is the team's best defensive player, could miss the rest of the season after having an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee earlier this week. Guard Russell Westbrook missed 14 games early in the season with a broken bone in his left hand. Center Steven Adams recently returned from missing 11 games with a broken right hand. And newcomer Enes Kanter, who was supposed to cushion the blow from losing Ibaka, will miss Friday's game against Atlanta with a sprained left ankle.
Presti said he feels for coach Scott Brooks.
"It's not easy when you've got a lot of guys in and out of lineups," he said. "I think he's done a really, really good job of managing that, of integrating new players that we've added. That's not an easy thing to do, either."
Presti said Brooks' approach will help the Thunder remain competitive, regardless of who plays.
"I think he's been steady, the way that he has been over the years, and that's one of the great things about Scotty," Presti said. "You know what you're going to get. He's going to come in each day, he's going to do the job, he's going to lead the team, he's going to have a clear idea as to what it is that's going to drive our success, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for navigating some of these things."
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