Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook had surgery on his right knee on Friday and is expected to be sidelined through the NBA All-Star break.
Westbrook had the surgery after experiencing increased swelling in his right knee. The procedure is the third for Westbrook since he tore his lateral meniscus during a first-round playoff matchup against the Houston Rockets last season.
"We know Russell well and he's one of the most resilient people I've come across," Thunder general manager Sam Presti told Yahoo Sports. "He's disappointed. But he knows that he'll be back shortly. He played at the highest level of his career before he got hurt and he will be back to that level."
Westbrook had undergone a series of MRIs as part of the protocol in returning from his second knee surgery. On Monday, Westbrook's Los Angeles-based doctor noticed a "new area" that merited monitoring. He didn't see any risk with Westbrook continuing to play, and Westbrook had a triple-double in the Thunder's Christmas Day victory over the New York Knicks. On Thursday, it was recommended Westbrook have surgery to alleviate the swelling.
"On the most recent MRI, it was determined by the surgeon that there was an area of concern that had not previously existed, nor was detectable in the previous procedures, and it was necessary to evaluate Russell further," Presti said in a statement released by the team. "The consulting physician determined that arthroscopic surgery was necessary to address the swelling that was taking place. We know that Russell's work ethic and commitment will help him return to the level of play that we have all come to appreciate."
Despite the listed timeline, Presti said it is not a given Westbrook will be back immediately after the All-Star break. The Thunder have 27 games, including Friday's against the Charlotte Bobcats, until the break, meaning Westbrook will likely miss at least a third of the season with his latest setback.
"I can't say unequivocally that he will come back right after the All-Star break," Presti said. "And I can't say unequivocally that he can’t come back before the All-Star break."
Westbrook had the initial surgery in May after he was hurt in Game 2 of the Thunder's series against the Rockets. He had the second procedure on Oct. 1 after experiencing swelling in the knee from what the Thunder said was a loose stitch from the first surgery. At that time, Westbrook was expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season. He ended up missing just two games and returned Nov. 3.
Westbrook had played well since his return, averaging 21.3 points, six rebounds and seven assists this season in 25 games.
"Obviously we are disappointed," Presti said. "At the same time we’re most disappointed for Russell. He’s a competitor and he was playing at a high level. As a team we’ve always made strides with adversity."
Reggie Jackson will start at point guard while Westbrook is out. Veteran Derek Fisher also will provide depth. Presti said the Thunder have yet to focus on whether they should pursue a trade for another point guard.
"We’re concentrating on supporting Russell," he said. "It’s way to early to look at anything. We will evaluate the present situation, but it’s a little too early to speculate on the team and the roster."
Westbrook is the latest NBA star to go down with a significant injury. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is out for the season after needing surgery to repair a meniscus tear. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is expected to be out another five weeks after suffering a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. The Brooklyn Nets also recently lost center Brook Lopez for the season with a broken foot.