Russ Returns Tonight, KD Still Out
By Randy Renner
Turns out Thunder fans have a little something more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.
Saying he feels “great,” is rested and “happy to be back,” Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook will return to Oklahoma City’s starting lineup tonight for the first time since October 30th.
Westbrook broke the index finger of his right hand that night in Los Angeles against the Clippers and has missed the last 14 games.
Superstar forward Kevin Durant remains on the injured list, he’s missed all 16 games of the Thunder’s season so far with a Jones fracture in his right foot. Durant could return next week, both he and Westbrook have been practicing with the Thunder for the last week.
“I’ve been just getting back into rhythm, getting my teammates back used to playing with me,” Westbrook said after this morning’s shootaround. “I’m ready to get back to my normal game routine.”
A routine that doesn’t include wearing a suit instead of a uniform out onto the court.
“I’m gonna take all my suits to the cleaners and I’m gonna pick em up at the end of the season,” Westbrook joked.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said his point guard will not be on a minutes restriction.
“Guys are excited, Russell has big passion for the game, he’s been a tremendous leader for us,” Brooks said. “He brings the toughness, the emotional part that it takes for a team to be successful. He’s one of the best players in the league so we’re all excited to have him back.”
Westbrook returns to his normal spot in the starting lineup and Reggie Jackson will return to his normal backup role. Jackson is OKC’s leading scorer, averaging 20.2 points per game. While filling in for Westbrook he’s also averaging 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
“He’s done a great job of filling that role and putting us in position to win every night,” Brooks said. “Reggie’s done a great job of giving us a chance to win every game, other than one or two. He gives us another option off the bench and Russell and Reggie will play a lot of minutes together, a lot of minutes.”
Even though the Thunder are just 4-12, the team has held second half leads in 14 of those 16 games. Having both Westbrook and Jackson might solve some of those late game problems.
Westbrook said he will wear some extra padding on his right hand, “I’ll have a brace, well, not a brace actually just something covering my hand. I’d rather not wear it, but I’ve got used to it over the last week or so.”
There had been speculation both Westbrook and Durant might both return against the Knicks, since both returned to practice at the same time. Both have looked good and Durant was seen shooting 3-pointers and driving into the lane during practice the last couple of days but he’s not quite ready.
Durant could be back in the Thunder lineup next week when the team goes on a three game road trip to New Orleans, Philadelphia and Detroit.