Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Paul George underwent rotator cuff surgery to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder Tuesday and will miss at least the start of preseason training camp, league sources told ESPN.
Along with George — who will also soon have a procedure done to correct a small tear in the labrum of his left shoulder — All-Star guard Russell Westbrook had a procedure done to repair a torn ligament in a finger on his left hand, league sources said.
Before the injury in late February, George had been considered an MVP front-runner and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He is expected to make a full recovery, although it won’t be until the preseason that the Thunder will next address a timeframe for his return.
Westbrook played the final six weeks of the season with the injury to the fourth metacarpal of his non-shooting hand, sources said. Westbrook had been taping and treating the finger throughout the final weeks of the regular season and playoffs but never disclosed the injury to the public.
He also had a minor procedure on his surgically repaired right knee Tuesday — described as proactive maintenance — that will allow him time to still have an aggressive summer of preparation for next season, sources said.
George and Westbrook played with the injuries in the final weeks of the Thunder’s season, when a run for the 3-seed in the Western Conference playoff race culminated with them finishing sixth and losing in the first round to the Portland Trail Blazers.
George injured his right shoulder against the Denver Nuggets on Feb. 26, though he suggested at the team’s exit interviews two weeks ago that he had been dealing earlier with a shoulder issue.
George missed three games, returning after a week only to then hurt his left shoulder, though he didn’t miss any time because of it. Surgery on his right shoulder was an option at that time, but without a risk of further damage or injury, George elected to play through it and address it after the season. He received regular treatment, including the use of a massive heating wrap while he sat on the bench during games.
His shoulder issues played a part in the way the Thunder’s season derailed. On the morning of Feb. 26, the Thunder were 38-21, third in the West, and George was a leading candidate for MVP. Prior to the injury, he was averaging 28.7 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting, including 40.3 percent from 3 on 9.6 attempts, admittedly playing the best basketball of his career.
After the injury, the Thunder went 11-12 with George playing far more inconsistently, averaging 26.1 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting, including 33.8 percent from 3 on 10.4 attempts.
“I think it came at a terrible time, especially [because] the team was rolling,” George said during his season-ending news conference. “We were playing good. I was holding up pretty, pretty, pretty good. I just thought it came at the wrong time, honestly. But again, I’ve never made no excuses on it. I was dealing with it for a long time throughout the season. It just got worse and worse as it went on.
“… Injuries are part of the game,” he added. “I’ve missed a season being hurt. … The training staff assured me I was fine to play through it, and I will be fine going forward. I’d had no other thought in my mind but to be out there and play and ride it out with my guys.”
George aggravated his right shoulder right before the postseason. In the second-to-last game of the regular season, George was skying for a baseline dunk against the Houston Rockets but had his right arm grabbed on the way up. He stayed in and eventually hit a game-winning 3 with a couple seconds left. Unable to lift his arm the next day, George sat out the regular-season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Before Game 1 against the Blazers, George went four days without shooting a basketball and was said to be unable to lift his right arm until the day of the game. He played through the injury in the series, getting routine treatment and adding black KT tape on both shoulders during games. He averaged 28.6 points on 43.6 percent shooting, including 31.9 percent from 3, but closed out strong with 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting.
Westbrook’s knee issues originated in 2013 when Patrick Beverley ran into him during the first round of the playoffs. Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus and underwent surgery for a full repair. He went almost five years without any surgeries on his knee before having another scope in September, which caused him to miss all of training camp and the first two games of the regular season.
He averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive season (22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and a league-leading 10.7 assists). Westbrook averaged nearly two steals per game — which was fourth in the NBA — while pairing with George to lead the Thunder into becoming one of the league’s best defensive teams during the regular season.