Sprained ankle is latest setback for Thunder’s Aleksej Pokusevski

Sprained ankle is latest setback for Thunder’s Aleksej Pokusevski

Aleksej Pokusevski will miss the start of training camp after suffering a right ankle sprain during a workout Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Brett Dawson

By Brett Dawson

| Sep 20, 2023, 3:18pm CDT

Brett Dawson

By Brett Dawson

Sep 20, 2023, 3:18pm CDT

OKLAHOMA CITY — Coming off an injury-plagued season that extended into the summer, Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski is set to miss more time. 

The fourth-year forward sprained his right ankle in a workout Tuesday, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. He’ll be reevaluated for a return to play in six weeks. 

It’s the latest in a string of setbacks for Pokusevski, who missed 44 of the team’s final 47 games last season with a broken left leg. In June, he suffered a small fracture in his upper right arm that kept him from playing for his native Serbia in this month’s FIBA World Cup. 

In 31 games last season prior to the injury, the 7-foot, 190-pound Pokusevski averaged 8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, two assists and 1.3 blocks. He broke his leg during a Dec. 27 game against the San Antonio Spurs and returned to play sparingly in three games in late March. 

Because he missed so much time, “you kind of forget the progress that he made,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at his postseason news conference in April, noting that Pokusevski’s defense was “on a different plane” last season than before. 

“His progress is interesting,” Presti said then. “Because within the seasons, he’s always had some choppy areas because he’s so young. But by the end of the season you could always say he’s gotten better. Even with a very short amount of time that he played this year, it’s very clear he’s a better player now than he was when he started the season.”

Pokusevski has played in 140 career games, averaging 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.9 blocks. 

His fight with injuries comes at difficult time. The 21-year-old Pokusevski is extension eligible this offseason, but the Thunder haven’t seen him log significant minutes since late in 2022. 

With the arrival of a key frontcourt piece in rookie Chet Holmgren — who missed last season with a foot injury after he was the No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft — Pokusevski figured to be fighting for rotation minutes in camp. 

Instead, he’ll likely miss all of training camp and the preseason. The announced six-week timetable would put his reevaluation early in the regular season’s second week. 

It’s Pokusevski’s most recent bout with adversity, but hardly his first. 

“He’s responded well to a lot of circumstances,” Presti said in April. “G League assignments, he always came back better. He had a couple injury things. He’s bounced back from things. His maturity is significantly different. I think he’s more comfortable.”

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Brett Dawson, the Thunder beat writer at Sellout Crowd, has covered basketball for more than 20 seasons at the pro and college levels. He previously worked the Thunder beat at The Oklahoman and The Athletic and also has covered the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers. He’s covered college programs at Louisville, Illinois and Kentucky, his alma mater. He taught sports journalism for a year at the prestigious Missouri School of Journalism. You can reach him at [email protected] or find him sipping a stout or an IPA at one of Oklahoma City’s better breweries.

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