October 12th was the beginning of the end for this Thunder season.
Only nobody knew it yet.
Sam Presti announced that day that that Kevin Durant would miss 6-8 weeks with a Jones Fracture in his right foot. Little did we know that this injury would be the first in a long line of injuries to nearly everyone on the Thunder roster. Most of those injuries have been small. A sprained ankle here (Durant, Collison, Kanter, Roberson, Jackson), knee injury (Morrow, Kanter) there. Even with two broken hands (Westbrook, Adams), broken face (Westbrook), another broken foot (McGary) and a knee surgery (Ibaka), those injuries pale in comparison to the latest Kevin Durant setback.
Let us take a walk through the reigning MVP's timeline to figure out how we arrived here.
October 12: Sam Presti announces that Kevin Durant will undergo a procedure to repair a Jones Fracture in the 5th metatarsal of his right foot.
October 16: Durant’s surgery was announced as successful. Presti says that Durant would be reevaluated in 6 weeks.
November 23: Durant returns to participate in non-contact portions of practice.
November 27: 6 weeks after surgery, Kevin Durant is reevaluated.
December 1: Durant participates in full contact practice, is progressing well.
December 2: Kevin Durant returns to game action almost 7 weeks after surgery. In his season debut, Durant scored 27 points on 9-18 shooting in 30 minutes in a loss to the Pelicans.
December 18: Barely 2 weeks after returning, and after scoring 30 first half points against the Warriors, Durant's right foot steps on Marreese Speights’ foot, causing him to roll an ankle. It was announced after the game that Durant had a mildly sprained ankle, and would miss more time.
December 29: After missing 6 more games, Durant returns to practice.
December 31: In his first game back, Durant carried the Thunder to an overtime win over the 8th place Suns. KD scored 44 points on 13-23 shooting.
January 25: After a loss against Cleveland, Scott Brooks said that Kevin Durant sprained his toe, and would miss some games.
January 31: After limping through an ugly loss against Memphis, it’s decided that Durant should probably try to not rush back.
February 6: Kevin Durant returns, once again.
February 22: After limping through several games, it is announced that Kevin Durant will have a surgery to change hardware in his right foot.
March 11: Scott Brooks says that Kevin Durant will return to action in "a week or two."
March 19: Brooks reveals that Durant suffered a setback at practice and his foot was sore.
March 20: Sam Presti announces that the Thunder are "removing Kevin from all basketball activities"
March 27: Presti releases statement saying that Durant will miss 4-6 months while recovering from a bone graft procedure.
March 31: Durant's bone graft surgery reported as successful.
Nobody is to blame here. OKC’s medical staff doesn’t perform the surgeries, so it’s not their fault. The surgeon can’t be blamed because the hardware change is common, and they can’t do anything about a setback. The only time I can see that the Thunder rushed him back was after he sprained his toe, on the opposite foot.
While the Jones Fracture is relatively common in the NBA, I could find only three instances of a bone graft being needed recently. A few players have had a re-injury of the foot, but almost all of those players have returned after a second operation. Let’s run through some of the most recent bone graft procedures.
After playing all 82 games his first 3 years in his career, the 7’0 center injured his right foot originally during the 2011-12 preseason. Lopez missed the first 32 games of the season. Lopez then injured his ankle and was shut down for the season.
In 2013-14, Lopez played the first 17 games before re-breaking his foot. He went under the knife to get his bone graft and was shut down for the rest of the season. This season, Lopez has been fantastic. While he missed a few games due to a back strain, the foot hasn’t been a problem at all.
Oh boy. This is the absolute worst case scenario. The former Rockets big man was a walking medical bill. Yao had three different foot surgeries in his career-the bone graft being the second of which. But, on top of his left foot injuries, Yao broke a knee, a leg, an ankle, and sprained an ankle. Highly unlikely KD ends up like this.
After coming into the league in 1996, Ilgauskas immediately broke his foot. The next season, the 7’3 center made the All-Rookie First team. However, this success with health didn’t last long. Ilgauskas suited up for just 5 games during the next two seasons. This chronic foot problem prompted the Cavs to go with a bone graft. The successful surgery saved Ilgauskas’ career and he played 10 more seasons at a high level.
While all three players had similar injuries, none are perfect comparisons. All three are big centers, while KD is a perimeter player. In fact, those players have about 60 more pounds of pressure on their feet than Durant does.
The season will continue to play out to whatever end, so let's hope that Durant's foot returns to OKC fully healed and ready to go in the 2015-16 season.