The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 16, 2013

After Westbrook injury, OKC fades fast

OKLAHOMA CITY — The way Kevin Martin describes it, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost the “vision” of a potential championship run the morning they learned All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook would be out for the rest of the postseason.

Despite fighting to the end in a series of narrow losses to Memphis, the Thunder’s season — which seemed so promising even when the playoffs began — is over much sooner than expected following a five-game loss in the Western Conference semifinals.

After making it to the NBA Finals a year earlier, Oklahoma City claimed the No. 1 seed in the West and was the favorite to make it back and challenge the Miami Heat for the title.

And then?

“We lost the guy that has the keys to our car,” Martin said Thursday.

The Thunder’s offense fizzled without Westbrook’s scoring punch and ability to create shots for teammates. To make matters worse, they drew the Grizzlies and their league-best defense in the second round. Three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant tried to pick up the slack, but to no avail.

“Let’s face it, Russell’s really good. He’s not only one of the best point guards, he’s one of best players in the league,” coach Scott Brooks said. “He has earned that with all of the work he has put in. He has a great work ethic and a great attitude to improve every day, and his will to win is at the highest level.

“We are a much better team — there’s no ands, ifs, buts about that. But we’re not an excuse team either.”

Right up until the end, the club believed it could overcome even Westbrook’s injury, suffered in a chance collision with Houston’s Patrick Beverley in Game 2 of the first round. But after winning the next game, Oklahoma City went 2-6 without Westbrook.

“It ended too soon. That’s what I’m going to say about the whole experience,” Martin said. “I think the year, we set ourselves up to be Western Conference champions this year. Heading into the playoffs, we (were) playing such great basketball, and then you have a fluke injury. You know that’s part of sports, but you never want to think it’s going to happen to you or your team.

“I feel like that’s how our season will be looked at now. It’s more like a ‘what-if’ season.”

The Thunder won 60 games in the regular season and had the best record in the West for the first time since 1996, when the franchise was in Seattle. But all that was thrown out when Westbrook tore cartilage in his right knee during the collision with Beverley and needed surgery.

Durant said he’d still look back on the season for the good times spent with teammates and the opportunities for growth, not a simply a wasted year.

“I’m going to be who I’m going to be. I’m not Kobe Bryant, I’m not Michael Jordan, not LeBron James, not Magic Johnson. I’m me,” Durant said. “I’m not going to ever compromise myself or my integrity or what I believe in to win some basketball games or to win a championship. That’s just how I was brought up.

“I’m always going to fight for the game I love. I’m going to claw until the last buzzer sounds. If that’s after the championship, then of course I’ll be happy. I’m not satisfied just being in this league and losing.”

Durant ended up second in the NBA scoring race to New York’s Carmelo Anthony but improved his efficiency, becoming one of a handful of players in league history to make at least 50 percent of his field-goal attempts, 40 percent of his 3-pointers and 90 percent of his foul shots.

After Westbrook’s injury, Durant averaged 31.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists. It still wasn’t enough to lift his team.

“You don’t win championships ... You don’t win playoff series or games with one or two guys. It’s always about a team late in the season. It’s always about a team in the playoffs,” Durant said. “We’re going to need everybody to step up, and I like the way we grew up as a unit.”

Some key decisions loom in the offseason for the franchise that traded eventual All-Star James Harden away at the end of training camp in a bid for financial flexibility under the salary cap. Most notably, Martin will be an unrestricted free agent and may have to take a pay cut to return to the team.

“I’m at a point in my career where I don’t need to get what I can get. ... I have a vision of what I want my career to be, and the main thing is happiness and being a part of something special,” Martin said.�

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Moving In? Indoor football coming back to Enid?

    Oklahoma City businessman Antwone Taulton and Enid Enforcers manager Mark Timberlake are in the early stages of a plan they hope will see the return of arena football in 2015 to Enid after an absence of more than 10 years. And if things progress as one league executive expects, an official announcement could be forthcoming in the near future.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Morris Claiborne Claiborne wants to prove worth to Dallas

    Morris Claiborne had already told reporters he was ready to prove he was worthy of Dallas’ dramatic move up the draft board to get him with the sixth overall pick in 2012. He didn’t waste any time showing some urgency.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tim Tebow NCAA settles head-injury suit, will change rules

    The NCAA agreed on Tuesday to help athletes with head injuries in a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit that college sports’ governing body touted as a major step forward but that critics say doesn’t go nearly far enough.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Attorney: OU's Mixon acted in self defense

    The attorney for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon said the incident that left a 20-year-old female OU student with multiple facial fractures was a case of self-defense.

    July 29, 2014

  • OSU no longer faces APR restrictions

    NCAA officials say Oklahoma State’s football program no longer faces restrictions for the upcoming school year because its Academic Progress Rate has been amended.

    July 29, 2014

  • Radio-TV for 7-30-14

    July 29, 2014

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Rice's punishment hardly fit the crime

    Two games, just over 12 percent of the 16-game regular season. Two games for hitting a woman hard enough to knock her out cold.
    Rice said Monday he will not appeal his suspension, which could wind up costing him $529,411 in fines and salary. And why wouldn’t he? He must feel like he got off scot-free.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • SamBradfordpicturejpeg Bradford used to being at 'career crossroads'

    It’s become a rite of training camp for Sam Bradford.
    Every summer, he deals with the oversized burden of living up to getting picked first overall in 2010. The St. Louis Rams quarterback is not surprised that once again, he’s supposedly at a career crossroads.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • TU wins C-USA academic honor

    The University of Tulsa earned the 2013-14 Conference USA Institutional Excellence award by posting the highest grade point average during the 2013-14 academic year for all student athletes in conference-sponsored athletes, the school announced on Monday.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hixon added to West All-State football team

    July 28, 2014

Click here for NASCAR headlines
Sports Photos


Enid News & Eagle sports photos from the month of February 2014. Enjoy all the ENE photos with full access at http://enidnews.smugmug.com.