Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook is back, sort of.
He practiced with his teammates for the first time since leaving the lineup on December 26th for the third surgery on his right knee, but Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said he’s not sure yet if Westbrook will be back in the starting lineup for Thursday’s highly anticipated game with the Miami Heat.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Brooks told a large scrum of media. “It’s only been one practice.”
But apparently it was a pretty good one.
“Russell looked good,” Brooks said, “his timing was pretty good, it’s always about being in game shape. But guys all I can say is he looked really good today in practice, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.”
The news is official now but Westbrook’s teammate Kevin Durant admitted he spoke out of turn when he let the cat out of the bag during an All-Star Weekend interview with ESPN’s Bill Simmons. Durant said then that Westbrook would return, “in our next game, right after the All-Star break, against Miami.”
“I jumped the gun on that one,” Durant said after practice today, “I was a little too excited then. But I don’t know, that’s up to the medical staff and to Russell.”
Westbrook has missed 30 games, two at the start of the season as he recovered from his second surgery, one for rest and then the last 27 the Thunder have played after his most recent knee procedure.
In the 25 games he’s played this season Westbrook is averaging 21.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.
Backup point guard Reggie Jackson has filled in for Westbrook and is averaging 13.6 points, 4.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds. Jackson will now return to his normal role though there will be many times when both Westbrook and Jackson will be on the floor at the same time.
“It’s like trading for an All-Star right here at the trade deadline,” Durant said, “we’re just excited to see him back on the floor and see him smiling.”
Durant said he doesn’t expect any problems adjusting to Westbrook being back in the lineup.
“It’s not rocket science man, I mean me and Russ been playing together for five or six years now and he’s missed 25 games so it’s nothing to think about.”
Westbrook was shooting free throws and working with assistant coach Robert Pack when reporters were allowed into the practice area but he was not made available to speak with the media.