OKLAHOMA CITY — The wait is over. Russell Westbrook is ready to play tonight against the Miami Heat.
The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard last played on Christmas Day when he dropped a triple-double on the New York Knicks. Two days later, he underwent a third surgery on his right knee due to recurring swelling.
General manager Sam Presti said Westbrook’s re-integration will include “building his minutes over time.” They’ll keep an eye on him to see his availability in back-to-back games. The Thunder’s next back-to-back games come March 16 and 17, at home against Dallas and the next night in Chicago.
“We are all very excited to have Russell back,” Presti said in a statement. “He has worked extremely hard throughout his rehabilitation, and his addition will allow us to build on the progress we have made in his absence. As Russell integrates back into the team we are going to manage the transition by building his minutes over time and will evaluate his availability in back-to-back situations. These steps are an effort to control the areas of his return to play where feasible, given the reduced practice and conditioning time during the regular season. Our goal is to create the best foundation for Russell and the team as we head into the postseason.”
The Thunder (43-12) lead the Western Conference and went 20-7 during Westbrook’s absence.
Westbrook, averaging 21.3 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds a game in 25 games this season, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee that occurred during the first round of the playoffs last season. A second surgery was needed prior to training camp. He returned three games into the season, but returned to the operating table once again in late December.
Oklahoma City is 21-4 this season with Westbrook in the lineup.