Upbeat Westbrook Says He’ll Return A Better, Smarter Player

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook typically ranks talking with reporters right up there with, oh say, having knee surgery. But on Thursday morning, in his first appearance since undergoing season-ending knee surgery 12 days ago to repair a meniscus tear, Westbrook was disarmingly charming, open, honest and remarkably upbeat for a player who had never missed a game and now must sit out what was to be a charge back to The Finals.

The All-Star point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder might be out, but he said his teammates can still get there.

“They’re tough, man,” Westbrook said. “The group of guys we have, I think we have enough to get a ring. Honest opinion.”

Westbrook will remain on crutches for up to a month and he won’t be able to travel with the team to Memphis as the semifinal series tied at 1-1 shifts to Memphis for Games 3 and 4 starting on Saturday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN).

He has begun daily limited rehab. He wears a brace that runs nearly the entire length of his right leg. It keeps him off the bench during games, but Westbrook has remained a constant presence around the team. He’s still attending practices, watching film and spending time in the locker room before games and during halftime.

He’s more a fan when seated high above the court in a suite, and then a coach when he heads to the locker room talk to second-year guard Reggie Jackson, his replacement, or to Kevin Durant, his superstar teammate now charged with so much responsibility.

“It hurts me not to be able to go out there and help my team,” Westbrook said. “Even though I’m out, I still have a voice and I can still help my team, still find a way where I can communicate things to guys. Maybe they don’t listen, maybe they do, but I still can use my voice and try to find a way to help my team.

“As a point guard and a leader of this team, my job is to find a way where I can help my teammates, coaching staff and the organization. They’ve been a big supporter of me and my job is to give it back, help them as much as I can with my input.”

Westbrook said the most surreal moment of the past two weeks was awakening from surgery, the first of his career, laying in a hospital bed with his mom by his side, disoriented, his knee immobile. The event that put him in that position occurred just before halftime of Game 2 in the first round series against Houston.

Westbrook casually dribbled toward the sideline near midcourt to call timeout with 5:34 left in the second quarter. As Westbrook picked up his dribble, Rockets rookie guard Patrick Beverley had other ideas and lunged low attempting to make a steal. But Beverley awkwardly clipped Westbrook’s leg.

The pain instantly registered. Westbrook hopped on one leg and pounded the scorer’s table with his fist. He glared at the Houston bench in disgust before doubling-over. He knew something was wrong, describing the amount of pain at the moment as “a lot,” but he didn’t consider leaving the game either. Out of the timeout, Westbrook made a steal and layup.

“Once it got to halftime, it got real stiff so it was real tough for me to come back and start running again and jumping,” Westbrook said. “But as the game went on, the crowd was going; I’m going to continue to play and find a way I can help.”

Westbrook played the entire second half and scored 16 points in the Thunder’s 105-102 victory in a series they would eventually close in six games.

“When I was playing on it, I was basically playing on one leg, kind of just hobbling around, just trying to find a way where I could do what I can to help my team win,” Westbrook said. “But at the same time, I was in pain.”

The play has been dissected and thoroughly debated since, some believing it was a dirty tactic, or at least an unnecessary one. Others view it as a hustle play. Westbrook said he’s watched the replay “numerous times.” He doesn’t have an opinion on it that he cared to share publicly.

“That’s really something I can’t answer,” said Westbrook, who has not heard from Beverley. “I just hope it wasn’t a dirty play.”

The following day’s MRI revealed a cartilage tear, requiring surgery. Initial speculation suggested that Westbrook would possibly return in a matter of weeks.

“It was stressful,” Westbrook said. “My knee was hurting. I got home it was hurting. The morning after it was hurting. Getting MRIs is always scary because I feel like every time somebody gets an MRI they always come back with some bad news.”

On Friday morning, Westbrook got his. The Thunder’s second-leading scorer and co-leader would miss the remainder of the postseason.

“It’s tough, man,” Westbrook said. “I don’t want to let my team down. I want to compete. I love playing and I want to play in every game I’m able to and able to walk. This time I wasn’t able to walk and run like I was supposed to.”

There is no timetable when Westbrook will begin such activities, but he will stay in Oklahoma City to rehab this summer rather than return to his usual offseason home in Southern California.

Westbrook said his time off the court and high above it will make him a better and smarter player next season.

“I will come back a better player mentally. I think that’s the biggest thing, mentally it’s going to be a big step for myself and moving forward with this team,” Westbrook said. “I get the opportunity to kind of sit back — this is my first time basically seeing the game from a different view — and watch a whole game when I’m not playing. It’s different.”

And, oh yes, Westbrook even revealed a surprisingly self-deprecating sense of humor.

“It’s something that can help me to see some of the things that you guys may see or somebody may see — the crazy shots I shoot — so I can sit back and see, so I think it’s good for me.”

26 Comments

  1. sports fan says:

    If Westbrook comes back a smarter player then that will make OKC that much better & they’ll clearly come out of the west next season.

  2. sports fan says:

    Westbrook is a better shooter than Rose & is more rugged. Rose is better at taking to the basket & is clearly the fastest player in the history of the league. With the basketball Rose gets down the court faster than anyone. Using the game clock as a stopwatch to time his speed is proof of this.

  3. Gwendolyn hill says:

    Westbrook well be back in thunder blue hopefully he will be just as quick and powerfully as he alway is. The team need him to be the old Russ with more court vision.

    • Gary Payton says:

      He is a warrior and will be a 100%, he has heart and is a great point guard! Probably be 2-0 with him playing!

  4. Patty says:

    WHO CARES ABOUT WESTBROOK.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      This is an article about Westbrook dummy, if you don’t like him then quit trolling!

      • Gary Payton says:

        It is not trolling, it is the PLAYOFFS! Most people have been following the NBA for more than five years and have the right to have input….

  5. MIAMI says:

    Westbrook is the second best point guard in the league..it’s a real shame that he is sitting out and his value decreased. He’s going to get traded to miami for up and coming chalmers, joel anthony ( thunder need a skilled big man), james jones ( 3 point machine), and draft picks.

    Miami’s lineup
    PG Westbrook
    SG Wade
    SF Lebron
    PF Bosh
    C Ray Allen (after summer of post move tutorship from hakeem-just like lebron)

    SIXTH MAN: Talented allstar/ future hall of famer Juwan Howard

    • NotAHater says:

      Wow, you are really a dummy.

    • Westbrook#1 says:

      Westbrook will not go to the heat. He wants to beat the heat. Why the F would he join up with his nemesis? He’s not a sell out coward like Ray Allen…..Give him a little more credit than that come on….

  6. Wilson says:

    After experiencing a torn meniscus myself, It took me around 6-7 months of recovery. But a professional athlete should have an even quicker recovery, and the best thing is with only a torn meniscus you should be able to play at full strength or have even more strength in your knees/legs as long as your truly committed to the recovery. But that might be just anecdotal evidence on my part.

  7. JJe says:

    I like how everyone forgets that Rose will come back, Rose has always been better than Westbrook. Hopefully Westbrook heals up and does gets smarter though because his basketball IQ isn’t exactly through the roof….

    • Westbrook#1 says:

      OMG I can’t stand how much credit D rose gets. He is a less talented less atheletic less aggressive less tough version of WB. He is not even 2nd best. I’d give that to CP3 probably. He is good but WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY overrated. He has never even been to the finals….OKC on the other hand. Year 1 = no playoffs. Year 2= pushed the champion lakers to a tough 1st round series. Year 3 = Western Conference Finals vs the champ MAVS. Year 4= Fianls where Westbrook set a 40 something point francise record. Bulls = After MJ……nothing

  8. amitpal says:

    I believe russell westbrook will be the best point guard next year. Paul will always be the best leader as long as hes in but I think as a guy that gets it done westbrook will be the best point guard because I think he will come back smarter with a better jump ahot. This injury might have helped both westbrook and durant become better and more ready to when the finals next year.

    • dattebayo says:

      You know, Rose will eventually be back, right? Isn’t Rose better?

      • Westbrook#1 says:

        Yes Rose will be back….and NO he is not better. You must not watch many thunder games.

      • OKCKD35 says:

        Rose is a baller, no doubt about that, but he is scared to step back on the court, he has been medically cleared to play for months now. In D-rose’s MVP year (which KD should have won) Rose and Westbrook’s stat lines for the season were almost identical, yet Rose gets more Hype as Westbrook plays with Durant. Its easy to run up your regular season record in the EAstern Conference as there are what 3-4 good teams. (See Miami, somehow the defending champions got the easiest schedule in the NBA this year) Where the West has a legit 8 good teams, yet OKC remains at the top of that conference

  9. W/E says:

    lol thats real funny.

  10. Westbrook#1 says:

    WB is the man. Everyone is now getting to see how important this man is to the team. No WB no ring. He is the most atheletic PG of all time! and the fastest, strongest, and most talented PG in the league. Can’t wait to see him back next year and go for a title run.

    • Krishawn-MIA says:

      …..derrick rose

      • Garifuna says:

        Back in 2011, yes.

      • Westbrook#1 says:

        D rose WAS good in his 1 MVP year. He is a lot like Westbrook in that he is a scoring PG but be honest with yourself he is not as fast,quick,atheletic,aggressive,dominate, and talented as Westbrook. Also D rose is soft as Westbrook is tough and that alone makes him better. No disrespect to D rose he is awesome just simply saying Westbrook is the best. No one can guard him.

  11. KC says:

    It’s hard not to be frustrated on Westbrook’s behalf. I’ve always thought that, of the teams out there, OKC was one of those teams that try to play basketball the right way–as a team. I think it’s becoming really apparent just what Westbrook was bringing to the floor night in, night out. I really think that he was a standout perimeter defender because of his speed and athleticism. Now that he can be on the floor with his team, we are seeing opposing point guards take advantage, like Conley did in game 2.

    Guys in the NBA are paid to do their best for their respective teams. I get that. I still think that Beverly could have gone for the steal without touching Westbrook. I think there’s a culture in the NBA of “showing toughness” by not being too careful with other guys on the floor. It’s a bad attitude, and although everyone knows the risks of playing a contact pro sport, these kinds of injuries could be minimized if the NBA officiating would be willing to discourage that kind of play.

    I would say, it should be something like the way manslaughter is treated as a crime. Hey, you didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but if deliberate action on your part causes serious injury to another player, it should be a mandatory one game suspension. If God forbid your strategy is to take out the opponent’s star player through dirty play (not saying that was what happened here), your team should pay the price by not having you available to suit up, either. They are all adults there, who should take on an adult level of responsibility. Didn’t mean to hurt anyone? Too bad, you did, you could have potentially ended someone’s career, you should have to pay at least some kind of penalty.

    • Corey says:

      This whole comment above is bias and stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I love Westbrook’s game and all but Patrick Beverly wasn’t trying to show toughness. I get it, I’d be super rattled if I were on OKC because it was an unnecessary play. Going for a steal while the other team is calling a timeout doesn’t seem very sportsmanlike BUT Beverly had no intention of hitting his knee…

      I highly doubt his thought process was “Oh, let me just bang my knee against his leg in hopes of tearing his muscle or injuring him.”

      Yes, this whole thing was a stupid play but how in the world do you compare manslaughter to accidental injuries in sports that occur all the time… Next thing we know, we’re suspending players for ankle breaking other people cause they sprained their ankles during the process.

      Also, your point on refs being more strict… Are you serious?? Are you asking that every time someone bumps into someone we need to call a foul?

      I’m sorry but everything you said made no logical sense to me.

  12. cip says:

    poor Westbrook