MOORE — Russell Westbrook wasn’t expected back to be back for a couple more weeks. The Oklahoma City guard’s rehab process was scheduled to last until at least later this month.
But as Thunder fans have found out over the years, Westbrook has his own timetable on doing things.
“I don’t know who made that up in the first place,” Westbrook said. “I was never on that timeline at all. I was just taking it day by day. Taking it one day at a time until I was ready to play.”
The All-star guard made his season debut Sunday against the Suns six months after inuring his knee. He racked up 21 points, seven assists and some timely clutch shots to help the Thunder beat the Suns 103-96 at the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook’s efforts didn’t surprise his coach.
“I think the biggest thing, and I’ve been saying it forever, there are two things that Russell does at a high level,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He wins. He’s a winner. He’s a guy that plays the game like it’s supposed to be played. It’s not always going to be perfect, but he plays with everything he has.”
Westbrook’s return was almost movie like. With his team coming off its worst defeat in three years and set to play their first game at home, the emotional, speedy guard made his return and his greeted by thousands of grateful fans.
“He has gone through a lot of work and I give him a lot of credit,” Brooks said. “The guy is as mentally tough as I have been around. He’s committed. He’s showed that every day during this practice. When you are hurt it’s not always the easiest thing watching your team play. “
Yet, Westbrook said this was not planned. If it was up to him, he would have been back sooner.
“Wasn’t too much that could speed up the process for me,” Westbrook said. “Goal was just to slow play it. I’ve been slow-playing it. I wanted to play the first game, but I wasn’t ready yet and wanted to get a few more practices under my belt and get my rhythm and find a way to get back on the floor.”
In the two games Oklahoma City played this year without Westbrook, the offense was inconsistent and unable to find consistent points outside Kevin Durant. Westbrook said he’s learned a lot just watching his team from the sideline.
“I seen a lot of things just watching the game from a different point of view,” Westbrook said. “Just learning things, learning how guys communicate, just learning the game a lot better.”
Yet, even with him in the lineup, the Thunder still had problems. It took clutch plays down the stretch from Westbrook and Durant to close out the Suns.
However, it was also easy to see the excitement and passion Westbrook brings to the lineup. His fearless nature pushes the Thunder to another level.
In the third quarter Sunday, a Westbrook-to-Durant alley-oop dunk sent both players running downcourt screaming and brought the fans to their feet.
“I was just good for him to be back,” Durant said. “I know how much he loves the game. For him to come out and do something he loves after being out so long, it was just great to see him.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com