Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer of this decade and the reigning MVP, will likely miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after fracturing a bone in his right foot.
The Oklahoma City star forward complained of an ache in his foot after practice Saturday, the team said. Tests showed he has a "Jones fracture," a broken bone at the base of his small toe. Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Sunday that surgery is likely, and that similar injuries have forced players to miss six to eight weeks.
The Thunder open the season Oct. 29 at Portland. A six-week absence could have Durant back for the start of December, with about 65 games remaining.
"We're really fortunate to be catching it when we're catching it," Presti said. "Very fortunate that Kevin notified us yesterday, and we're catching it kind of on the front end, before this became a little bit more of an acute issue."
The Thunder have a couple of high-profile matchups in December, playing LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Dec. 11 and going to San Antonio for a Western Conference finals rematch on Christmas.
Durant won the scoring title last season, collected his first MVP award and led the Thunder to the Western Conference finals. He skipped playing for the U.S. national team in this summer's World Cup so he could get additional rest. He played in two preseason games before complaining of pain.
On Media Day, Durant was asked about witnessing Indiana Pacers forward Paul George's grotesque broken leg during a USA Basketball scrimmage and offered perspective on injuries.
"You could get hurt walking outside," Durant said. "I know you hear that a lot, but you can get hurt anywhere. Just knowing that keeps you kind of levelheaded, and at peace with what happens on that court. If you worry about it too much, you start to get scared a little bit. So I just try not to worry about it."
The Thunder were forced to play for nearly two months last season without their other All-Star, Russell Westbrook, because of a knee injury, but remained among the West's best because of Durant.
He averaged 32 points, 7.4 points and 5.5 assists and was an overwhelming winner of MVP honors, ending LeBron James' bid for a third straight. Durant had a run of 41 consecutive games with at least 25 points, the third-longest streak in NBA history.
He has won four of the last five scoring titles, and was at his best during Westbrook's absence from late December through the All-Star break, averaging 35 points and 6.3 assists as the Thunder went 20-7.
For the first time, Durant will have an extended absence. He has never missed more than eight games in a season, and he has missed 16 regular season games in his seven NBA seasons. Now, it will be up to Westbrook to raise his game while Durant is sidelined, or the Thunder risk falling behind quickly in the powerful West.
"You don't replace Kevin Durant," Presti said. "It's not going to be one person, it's going to be a collective mindset. We know we're a better basketball team with Kevin Durant on the floor, but we can have some influence over how good we are in the meantime. We're certainly not going to be looking at the calendar waiting for him to get back. I don't think he'd want us to do that."
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBrunt .