Westbrook uncertain if minutes restriction will be lifted come playoffs

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Westbrook leave vs. Raptors after banging knee

DALLAS – Russell Westbrook returned to action Tuesday night for the first time since his knee scare four nights earlier in Toronto. He remains on a minutes restriction, up to 32 a game, a precaution he’s not yet sure will be lifted once the playoffs start in little more than three weeks.

“I’m not sure,” Westbrook said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Mavericks. “Once I talk to the doctors, the coaches and the people I I need to talk to about that, then we’ll figure it out.”

What is known is that coming off three surgeries in eight months, and with Friday night’s collision with Raptors guard Kyle Lowry reminding him of his vulnerability, Westbrook is embracing the bigger picture.

“I feel great, but it ain’t about this year,” Westbrook said. “I’m 25 years old, you know? It’s not all about right now. You got to think about the future. I can’t just think about what’s going on right now. I’m still young, I’m trying to play as long as I can.”

Westbrook’s knee nightmare started 11 months ago in the first round of the playoffs when Rockets guard Patrick Beverley careened into him, tearing the meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee and ending his season. He underwent surgery to repair the meniscus days later and then required two subsequent, and unexpected arthroscopic procedures, one coming days before the start of training camp and another two days after he put up a triple-double at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day.

The latest setback kept him out until Feb. 20. Tuesday’s 129-118 overtime loss to the Mavs was the first time since his return that he logged more than 31 minutes. He played 33, but Thunder coach Scott Brooks, in order to adhere to the minutes restriction, sat Westbrook for the first 2:57 of overtime. OKC fell behind 120-113 before he checked in.

Westbrook has averaged 26.3 minutes in the 12 games he played prior to Tuesday night. His career average is 34.0 mpg and he averaged 38.4 mpg in the 2011-12 playoffs when OKC advanced to the NBA Finals. Along with the minutes restriction, which has been bumped up from 25-26 minutes initially to 30-32, Westbrook will continue to be held out of one game of back-to-back situations.

That leaves Westbrook available for eight of the Thunder’s final 11 games. OKC wraps up the regular season on April 16 and will open the first round at home that weekend. How the team will handle his minutes at that point, Brooks said, is not yet a significant part of the discussion.

“I haven’t really focused on a lot of that because there’s plenty of time for us to talk about that,” Brooks said. “We’re just focusing on what we have in place and that’s just the regular season. We’ve had some small discussions about what we’re going to do moving forward, but right now we haven’t really locked up anything.”

Both times Westbrook has returned from surgery this season, he’s seemingly picked up where he left off. If he’s lacked any speed or explosion, it’s been impossible to tell. He’s never allowed the recovery process to create a mental hurdle or slow his full-throttle style. He continues to attack the basket with reckless abandon.

“It’s just my mindset, how I think, how I get myself going,” Westbrook said. “I just think to myself, go out and try to compete, that’s it, go out and help my team win. I know when I’m on the floor my only thing is go out and play hard and try to win.”

Since his return after the All-Star break, he’s averaged 21.0 points, 7.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds. His shooting percentages — 45.2 overall and 41.3 from beyond the arc — are higher than his overall shooting percentages.

“I mean, I’ve been confident,” Westbrook said. “The training staff and the rehab that I’ve done has put me in a great spot to be able to come out and perform at a high level, how I want to perform. So I have confidence in my knee; just have to go out there and play and let the rest take care of itself.”

Westbrook acknowledged that the incident Friday at Toronto put a scare in him. As soon as it happened, he grimaced, grabbed his knee and slammed the basketball to the floor, an emotional display that was eerily similar to the night he went down in the Houston series. He was helped off the floor by a teammate and head trainer Joe Sharpe and did not return. Immediately, the worst was feared. By the game’s end, he was feeling more confident that he was OK, but wasn’t fully confident until getting the results of the MRI taken the next day.

“I was just scared and wanted to know what was going on,” Westbrook said.

Before Tuesday’s game against Dallas, he was asked what his mindset is now as he suited up for his first game since getting his knee knocked.

“Kill,” Westbrook said. “That’s my mindset from now on.”

20 Comments

  1. clips city says:

    I think kd can win a tittle by his self but both him and Russell can win more together & if they released Russell not harden that would most Lilkley not work idk that is just my opinion

  2. okc2014 says:

    Russell Westbrook Haterade drinkers. Boo!

  3. OKC Fan says:

    I think Russel Westbrook should rest his knees so he can be 100% during the playoffs. He’s too explosive for his knee’s current state. Jackson can substitute for him in the meantime.

  4. Rofo says:

    Westbrook is the heart and soul of the Thunder and the best overall player in the NBA. Yea, I said it. His work approach to the game is 2nd only to Kobe. And as an overall player its him and Lebron. Durant is a pure scorer and a pretty good defender. But he is a not a leader, its just not his station in life and people need to stop forcing Russ and Durant into holes that support what the media is telling them.

    Additionally, the Thunder are missing 2 starters right now while playing the toughest stretch of the season with all of the back to backs and multiple games in short time periods. There is no way they will win the West this year, but its not anyone’s fault. They have been playing a lot without 3 starters.

    The only question now is when Thabo and Perkins come back, and if the team can get their timing down in time for the playoffs. The first round will have to be used to tune up and may be a tougher challenge for them, but if they are able to get their pieces together and make it past the first round, then watch out. They have more overall talent than any other team in the NBA.

  5. Linsanity says:

    Wesbrook needs to know that he is not the leader and should give the ball to KD all the time down in the stretch.
    yes he can score and be clutch
    but KD is better and he needs to know that.
    THunder shoulda have kept Harden than Westbrook.

  6. stephen says:

    westbrook needs to play more team ball than pulling a king James

  7. JudithEGrant says:

    I love the Thunder team. Right now I feel that they cannot attain the championship because there is not enough consistency. Kevin is doing all that he can with an without Westbrook. There are good bench players but they do not get enough opportunities to play for one reason or the other.
    If everything is in tact, defensively as well as the outpouring of offense the Thunder can be dangerous.
    Also The thunder need a backup rebounder. Someone that can bank with larger players from other teams.
    In myheart I wish this special team all the luck, but I sadly must be realistic

  8. Weedmoker says:

    Win is win no matter what. Miami is a complete team with a very good bench. But don’t forget that last time the Spurs almost won the title. Just that one little free throw…

  9. kiwisepp says:

    I thought, Westbrook should stop taking these long jump. Especially in a clutch moment, he should let KD take it.

    Sometimes, I feel, Westbrook does more harm than help to OKC

  10. Andrea says:

    Last year’s playoffs showed everyone just how valuable Westbrook is to the team. Durant may have gone on a tear earlier this season without him, but he’s not winning a title for OKC without Westbrook backing him up. Keep Westbrook as healthy as possible for the playoffs, you’re gonna need him.

  11. KaashMoneyy94 says:

    If OKC doesn’t win the title, it because Russell Westbrook didn’t let them. KD can’t do it by himself but Westbrook is definitely not the sidekick he needs to go to the top. Westbrook should just go to his hometown LA and KD should just join the Rockets with his good buddy Harden.

    • HereHereBeer says:

      Please don’t ever comment again if that is your contribution. Oh yes, go to big markets rather than staying in a small market, which has embraced its team and players with what, over 130 sellouts in a row now? Yeah, when we’ve got this team and could be contenders for another 8 years, you’re idea is great.

      • KaashMoneyy94 says:

        Hey HereHereBeer have fun with your team actually being in OKC. Looks like you’re just interested in being great but never winning a title. Good for you to be optimistic man

    • ROB says:

      disagree

      Westbrook playing at a high level and playing team ball is the only way Durant will get a ring unless he pulls a Lebron and goes to a team that is built off of trading. The thunder are still mostly all drafted players.

      • KaashMoneyy94 says:

        We all know that ROB but you and I also know that is not the Westbrook mentality. I’m not gonna lie, some plays he makes blows me away. But other times he makes bone-headed moves when he’s got a top 2 player on the plant as his teammate. Westbrook could change as he grows older but I doubt it.

      • KaashMoneyy94 says:

        ***planet

    • JM says:

      they didn’t win it when Westbrook was healthy and James Harden was still with them, so what are you saying? It takes more than 1 player to win a title, hence TEAM.

    • Frankb90 says:

      Fail Post.. Do you even watch Thunder games.. Go back and watch last years playoffs without Westbrook and see how good the Thunder are when KD is doubled and trippled teamed.

      • KaashMoneyy94 says:

        Just watched the OKC vs DAL with Westbrook playing and having 8 TOs. Didn’t really help when he was there either???