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Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook will miss the remainder of the postseason after undergoing successful surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, the team announced Saturday.
Rehab will begin immediately following the surgery, which took place at the Stedman Clinic in Vail, Colo., according to the Thunder. No timetable has yet been established for his return; a timeline will be determined during the offseason, the team said.
The Thunder announced the tear Friday, saying that Westbrook suffered the injury during the second quarter of Oklahoma City's 105-102 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of their first-round series. The team had previously held out hope that Westbrook would be able to return before the end of the playoffs, as Westbrook's tear was reportedly considered to be minimal, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. But the choice to repair the tear rather than remove the meniscus will require a longer recovery period that will prevent Westbrook from returning, according to Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
“Although we are of course disappointed that Russell will be unable to return to the floor with his teammates this season, the opportunity to repair the meniscus as opposed to remove it was the best possible scenario for Russell's long term health as a player and person,” Presti said in a team statement. “Russell's health and well being are obviously our number one priority through this process and today's procedure helped solidify our belief that Russell will have many productive years of basketball in his future.”
Westbrook was the Thunder's second-leading scorer this season, averaging 23.2 points per game, to go with 7.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest. In his absence, Thunder coach Scott Brooks will have to rely more heavily on backup guards Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher, and will likely hand more ball-handling and playmaking responsibility to star Kevin Durant. Westbrook's loss is a serious blow for the top-seeded Thunder, considered the favorite to represent the Western Conference in the NBA finals for the second straight season, and bolsters the conference title hopes of fellow high seeds like the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.
Patrick Beverley, the Houston point guard whose collision with Westbrook while attempting a steal before an OKC timeout likely led to the injury and at whom Westbrook is reportedly "irate," told Wojnarowski that he's sorry Westbrook suffered an injury, but that he doesn't regret trying to make a play and won't apologize for it:
"I want to go against Russell Westbrook again and battle him again," Beverley told Yahoo! Sports by phone on Friday evening. "I didn't try to hurt him, but that play was something I've tried in the past, a play that worked against the Suns earlier in the season – and it's a play that I'm going to continue to try again."
The Thunder and Rockets square off Saturday night in Game 3 of their Western Conference playoff series at Toyota Center in Houston. Oklahoma City holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.