By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
For once Russell Westbrook received good news regarding his troublesome right knee. A comprehensive examination on Saturday that included an MRI revealed “no issues of concern,” according to an Oklahoma City Thunder team representative.
It certainly appeared as though the Oklahoma City point guard might expect the worst. During the third quarter of Friday’s game at Toronto, Westbrook knocked knees with Raptors guard Kyle Lowry as Lowry popped out to guard him at the 3-point arc. Westbrook immediately grimaced, grabbed his knee and slammed the basketball to the floor. He was helped off the court by backup center Hasheem Thabeet and head athletic trainer Joe Sharpe.
Westbrook did not return and suddenly his season and the Thunder’s championship aspirations were put on indefinite hold. Following the Thunder’sdramatic 119-118 double-overtime victory won in the final seconds on a 3-pointer by MVP frontrunner Kevin Durant, who finished with 51 points, Westbrook was more upbeat talking to the media. He said the initial pain made him nervous considering his recent history and that he was “pain free” and “feels good.”
According to the team representative, Westbrook woke up Saturday morning feeling “normal.”
For the Thunder, who sit 1 1/2 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the top spot in the West entering Saturday’s games, the positive news came as a huge sigh of relief as they enter the final 13 games of the regular season.
Westbrook had just returned from his third operation on the knee on Feb. 20 after missing 27 games. Prior to that he was playing some of the best basketball of his career. Two days after recording a triple-double at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 25, swelling forced a second arthroscopic surgery. He underwent the first days before the start of training camp due to a loose stitch inside the knee stemming from the major operation to repair the meniscus in late April.
In 37 games, Westbrook has averaged 21.2 ppg, 7.0 apg and 5.7 rpg. He will remain on a minutes restriction he’s adhered to since his return after the All-Star break, and the Thunder will likely continue to hold him out of one game of back-to-back sets.
The Thunder next play Monday at home against Denver and then Tuesday at Dallas.