With most of the sports world focused on March Madness, it was a relatively slow week in the Association. Unfortunately, it was more injury news that was making the headlines.
Last Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced that Kevin Durant will halt all basketball activities indefinitely to allow his foot to heal. Durant had foot surgery in October and recently underwent another procedure to alleviate pain in the same foot. The reigning MVP has played in only 27 games this season. Despite the Russell Westbrook supernova, the Thunder are also without all-star big man Serge Ibaka, who underwent surgery for mysterious, out-of-nowhere knee pain last week. Ibaka’s timetable for a return is 4-6 weeks, meaning he would miss the first round playoff series against Golden State. Westbrook can drop 45 points a night, without Durant and Ibaka, the Thunder have no chance of beating a deep Warriors team in the playoffs. Westbrook did drop his tenth triple-double of the season Sunday morning in a 93-75 victory over Miami. Russ is insane, but the Thunder just don’t have the personnel right now.
Blake Griffin returned to the Clippers lineup last Sunday after missing 15 games because of a staph infection in his elbow. The Clippers lost that games to the Houston Rockets 100-98, but they’ve won four straight since. Griffin dropped 23 points on a clean 10-of-21 shooting in this afternoon’s 107-100 victory over the Pelicans. Anthony Davis was harassing Griffin on defense all day, and Blake got his. As it’s been for the Clippers lately though, they won because of the strong guard play of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick and the ridiculous rebounding of DeAndre Jordan. Paul has been particularly filthy in March averaging 23.1 PPG and 10.8 APG on a clean 51% shooting. I’ve talked about Redick having a career year, check this out from the L.A. Times about the work Redick put in in the off-season. The Clippers have a few days off before hitting the road for a winnable East Coast road trip with games against New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.
NASH MAKES IT OFFICIAL
In news that wasn’t really so shocking, Steve Nash officially announced his retirement after 18 full NBA seasons, on Saturday. Nash finishes third all-time in assists and he is the NBA’s all-time leader in free throw percentage. Nash won back-to-back MVPs in 2005-2006, his “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns have inspired the pace and space game we see today. Steve Nash is the reason the NBA is a point guard driven league today. He’s a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. Sadly, his hall-of-fame career doesn’t include many Lakers highlights. Nash suffered a broken bone in his second game with the team back in 2012 and has been dealing with nerve issues ever since. He played only 65 games in his three seasons in purple-and-gold. On a personal note, Nash is probably my all-time favorite player not named Kobe, Shaq, or Michael. Lakers fans probably didn’t enjoy seeing Nash sidelined, but he worked his butt off to try and get back. After sleeping on it, I’m left thinking of the dude with the long hair who made crazy insane passes, ran the pick-and-roll to perfection, and was a silky-smooth shooter. The Canadian’s impact on the game is indelible.
The standings remain super tight, and there’s also a legitimate battle for the final playoff spot out East. Let’s just take a look at some upcoming matchups and enjoy these last three weeks of the season before playoffs start.
Monday: Rockets vs. Pacers (NBA TV), Wizards vs. Warriors
Tuesday: Lakers vs. Thunder, Spurs vs. Mavericks (TNT), Warriors vs. Blazers (TNT)
Wednesday: Cavs vs. Grizzlies, Rockets vs. Pelicans, Spurs vs. Thunder (ESPN)
Friday: Warriors vs. Grizzlies