OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook will have surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee and be out indefinitely, dealing a harsh blow to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s championship chances.
General manager Sam Presti said Friday that the Thunder had not yet scheduled Westbrook’s surgery and would not have an accurate timeline for his return until after the procedure was done. No one would rule out Westbrook’s possible return if Oklahoma City keeps advancing in the playoffs, and All-Star teammate Kevin Durant only said his teammates “hope” Westbrook can play again this postseason.
“We’re not trying to rush him or bring him back ahead of schedule. We want to make sure he’s healthy and his knee is right,” Durant said. “That’s our only concern with it right now. … We have to come together as a team and worry about the basketball. All he has to worry about is him getting healthy.”
The three-time All-Star was hurt in Game 2 of the Thunder’s playoff series against Houston on Wednesday night. Rookie Patrick Beverley lunged for a steal in the second quarter and his hip collided with Westbrook’s knee.
Beverley called Westbrook’s injury “unfortunate” and said Oklahoma City is still dangerous without him.
“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t go out there and try to hurt anybody,” Beverley said. “I play at one speed and that’s fast. I was just trying to make a play on the ball before they called a timeout and it’s just unfortunate.”
“Our team as a whole, we’ve got a resilient group of guys, a lot of character within that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they’ve been together. We’d expect them to adjust, come together and have different guys step in and play well collectively,” Presti said.
“Once we were able to gather all of the necessary information and everything was accumulated, it was an easy decision for our medical team.”
Game 3 is Saturday night in Houston. Westbrook averaged 24 points and seven assists in the first two games, both won by top-seeded Oklahoma City.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin recalled how he was able to return six days after surgery on his meniscus in college at Oklahoma, but his didn’t have to be repaired. The Thunder said Westbrook’s would be repaired.
“They’re still a great team even without him but he’s a huge part of their offense,” Griffin said. “A great player, so it does leave them a little vulnerable.”
One of the most polarizing figures in the league, Westbrook has displayed a quick temper to go along with his lightning-fast drives to the basket and increasingly accurate pull-up jumpers. He’s also known for his outlandish fashion sense, often wearing glasses without the lenses and unusual shirts.
Durant said the Thunder appreciate him more for his dedication for the team and because he “gives his all every second he’s on the floor.”
“A lot of people may not like what he brings to our team. But inside, we love what he does,” Durant said. “He’s a different player, a different person, but we love what he brings. It’s unfortunate that he can’t compete at the highest level of basketball, which is the playoffs.”