Thunder star Kevin Durant was diagnosed with a left hamstring strain and will sit for 7 to 10 days before being reevaluated. The injury comes as the Thunder have started to find their stride, posting 124 and 125 in the last two games and winning both by more than 20 points.
In the grand scheme of things, if an injury must be suffered, now is the time to do it. Fans may recall Clippers star Chris Paul injuring his left hamstring in game 7 of last season’s first round against San Antonio. Paul played through it, but missed the first two games of the next series against Houston. He missed six days during the most important stretch of the season. Durant has the luxury of allowing his injury to fully heal before returning.
In the meantime, Billy Donovan has to shuffle his starting lineup and grant opportunities elsewhere on his deep bench. Dion Waiters is the most logical candidate to replace Durant in the starting lineup. His ability to create offense and handle the ball will relieve pressure on the Thunder’s other star, Russell Westbrook. Fans that have been clamoring for Anthony Morrow to be freed from the bench may get their wish. It’s also possible that Donovan calls on veteran Steve Novak, a sharpshooter who played 7.0 minutes per game in the preseason.
Most importantly, the Thunder schedule lightens up over the next six games. The team faces lowly Philadelphia on Friday night at home, followed by a visit from Boston on Sunday. After a Monday trip to Memphis, the team returns to play a three-game homestand against the Pelicans, Knicks, and Mavericks. Durant should return by then, if he hasn’t already. Barring no further setbacks, Durant’s injury should be nothing more than a minor inconvenience.