Injured Westbrook trying to help Thunder while out
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook expects to be on crutches for about four to five weeks as he returns from knee surgery that has knocked him out of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s playoff run.
Westbrook held his first interview session Thursday since having surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee. He was hurt in Game 2 of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff series with Houston.
The Thunder have gone 3-3 without him and head to Memphis on Saturday for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals. That series is tied 1-1.
Westbrook had never missed a game—in the regular season or playoffs—in his five NBA seasons before the injury, and he never had a serious injury before that either.
“It’s tough, man,” Westbrook said after walking into an interview room on his crutches. “I don’t want to let my team down. I want to compete. I love playing. I want to play in every game as long I’m able to walk, but this time I wasn’t able to walk around like I’m supposed to.”
Westbrook’s injury has forced second-year guard Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup, while three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant has taken on more of the ball-handling duties. Durant is averaging 35.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists since Westbrook went down.
“I think we have a tough group of guys finding a way to win games. The group of guys we have, I think we have enough to get a ring,” Westbrook said. “In my honest opinion, we’ve been together long enough to be able to figure things out when guys go down, and I think you can see that.”
Westbrook has been unable to travel with the team, and he won’t be making the trip to Memphis this weekend. He said he has been attending practices, hanging around his teammates and trying to make game days as normal as possible even though he’s watching from a suite instead of playing.
“As a point guard and a leader of this team, my job is to find a way where I can help,” Westbrook said. “My teammates, the coaching staff and the organization, they’ve been a big supporter of me and my job is to give it back and help them out as much as I can and give my input.”
Westbrook was hurt on April 24 when Rockets rookie Patrick Beverley lunged for a steal as Westbrook stopped to call a timeout in the second quarter of Game 2. He remained in the game, which the Thunder won 105-102, and it wasn’t until two days later that the team announced he’d miss the rest of the playoffs.
“When I was playing on it, I was basically playing on one leg, kind of hobbling around … just trying to find a way where I can do what I can to help my team win,” Westbrook said. “At the same time, I was in pain.”
Westbrook said the knee initially felt “weird” and he slammed his right hand down on the scorer’s table knowing something was wrong. He said his leg stiffened up after halftime and he described playing through “a lot” of pain.
Westbrook didn’t know what to think about the play that caused his injury. It’s a play he has made in other games, including in the Houston series.
“That’s really something I can’t answer. I know I just hope it wasn’t a dirty play,” Westbrook said.
Beverley has said he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone and was simply trying to make a play on the ball. Westbrook said he hasn’t heard from Beverley since the injury, but he’s focused on moving forward.
For now, his rehab includes strengthening his quadriceps and keeping his leg strong. He’s not doing any work with a basketball.
“There’s really no need for me to do it right now. It’s kind of just wait until I get off crutches and try to find a way to slowly get myself back,” Westbrook said. “There’s no reason, no need for me to rush right now. I’ve kind of just got to wait.”
It won’t be until Westbrook gets off of his crutches that the team establishes a timetable for him to get back on the court. He said he plans to stay in Oklahoma City to do his rehab during the offseason, instead of returning home to California.
“I’ve never had to rehab anything,” Westbrook said. “This is so tough coming in doing the same thing every day. And then mentally, it can be tough. You’ve got to keep your spirits high, stay positive and come in every day with a mindset of trying to get better.”