After 27 games played and two-foot procedures, Kevin Durant’s season ends in yet another foot surgery. The bone graft that will be performed on Durant’s foot will address his recent regression in recovery from a Jones fracture. A third surgery this year is an unfortunate conclusion to the reigning MVP’s 2014-2015 campaign. Anytime we hear foot injuries associated with 6’6 and above players, there is immediate cause for concern. The memories of Yao Ming, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill and the countless other “what might have been” athletes come to mind. The Derrick Rose saga has been near tragic to this point and no one wants a similar set of events to unfold with Durant. My level of concern is currently at a DEFCON 1 but I can imagine that people with an actual stake in a NBA franchise are experiencing another level of worry. Considering the repercussions of committing to a KD that is no longer in fact KD. With 2016 free agency around the corner and Durant out another 4-6 months, the debate about Durant’s future will be a pressing topic in the near future.
My gut feeling is that Durant will now certainly re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Difficult thing to write as I quietly held out hope that my Washington Wizards would be his landing spot, considering his roots to the area. I do believe that franchises will offer the house to try and get him in a sign and trade. OKC will consider them because they make bad decisions (see the Harden trade) but for once in this franchises short history, common sense will prevail. Even when the Wizards offer Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, draft picks and a couple role players like Martell Webster and Kevin Serraphin, OKC will resist. The line in the sand will be when Washington makes Randy Whitman and Otto Porter mandatory additions to the trade (we’ll get rid of them somehow.) OKC will walk away and avoid another debacle where a MVP caliber player was let out the door. I purposely omitted the Knicks from any possible trade scenarios because they’re in their own whirlwind of despair. Even if Durant made a full recovery, it seems Madison Square Garden has become where All Stars go to break down and disappoint. I know it’s unfair, but if I were Durant, I’d let recent history steer me away from the Knicks. I mean it’s not like playing with Melo is alluring anyway.
I believe the perception by some franchises is that Kevin Durant is now a risky asset if they stake their whole franchise on him. I think Durant is going to make a full recovery but it’s going to take maybe all of next season to see him get close to full form. Everyone involved in the rehabilitation process is going to be cautious every step of the way including Durant and rightfully so. Lets not forget this guy has had THREE procedures on the same foot in 6 months. Some might argue that this foot injury is the culmination of all the minutes Durant has put in his career, especially last season in the absence of an injured Russell Westbrook. Even his vacation was filled with basketball. The HBO special, The Offseason, displayed the relentless work that Durant put in on the court. Durant definitely does not want to rush back after experiencing the ill effects of coming back too soon. Durant is a loyal guy and if OKC gives him the full support he needs in rehabilitation, he’ll want to stay and chase a championship there. Which brings us to the only positive in this whole miserable situation, Russell Westbrook.
With Durant shut down for the rest of the season, the full weight of the franchise is on Westbrook. And he has proven that he can thrive in this situation as the only alpha dog on the court. We’ve all witnessed the walking triple double that has become Westbrook over this last month. In Durant’s absence, Westbrook has displayed his full array of talent and everyone has had to disregard the notion that Westbrook was hindering Durant. Westbrook has experienced similar injury issues, having had three surgeries on his right knee in a short period of time, but seems to have come back even stronger. Westbrook will learn to trust his teammates more, especially his new best friend Enes Kanter. What was made clear after Durant’s MVP speech last year is that he and Westbrook love playing with each other. The loyalty they share cannot be stated enough, even though Westbrook probably thinks he could win fine without Durant (that’s just the type of player he is.) As the Thunder continue this season’s playoff run, it will become evident that even with Westbrook playing at such a high level, they ultimately need Durant to win the West and be considered a legitimate title contender. My prediction is OKC will lose to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs in a hard fought 5 game grind that will not be as lopsided as 4 games to one seems.
Until Durant is back on the court, the media circus surrounding him will be the worst that he has ever faced. I’ve learned more about the fifth metatarsal that he will have operated on this week that I feel qualified to do the procedure myself. When it comes to the fiercely competitive Durant, I will never bet against him. The recovery will be long and arduous, but if there is any player capable of coming back from this to full strength, it’s KD. When he does return, it will be to a more mature Westbrook and a battle tested supporting cast with post-season experience. Kevin Durant will be fine but the suitors for his services in free agency will be cautious because of his recent setback. OKC will do everything to keep Durant and in return, Kevin will do everything in his power to get back on the court and bring a championship to the Oklahoma City Thunder.