OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook talked to the media Thursday for the first time since being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round against Houston.
And he was in pretty good spirits about it, too.
Westbrook, who has been out since getting hurt when Houston guard Patrick Beverly ran into him in the first half of Game 2 in Oklahoma City, didn’t seem bitter or angry. But he also said Beverly did not reach out to him after the injury.
Many viewed the move by Beverly, who came at Westbrook and then bumped into his knee as Westbrook was getting ready to call a timeout, as a questionable play.
The result was a torn meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee. The team announced the next day he was out indefinitely.
After the collision, Westbrook immediately slammed his fist down on the scorer’s table and limped before heading to the bench. He returned shortly after and played in the second half, finishing with a team-high 29 points.
Thursday, in Oklahoma City at a scheduled press conference, Westbrook said he was upset with not being able to play, but didn’t really comment on Beverly’s motive and intention.
I’ve seen it numerous times,” Westbrook said of the collision with Beverly. “That’s something I can’t answer. I hope it wasn’t a dirty play. I’m just moving forward.”
Moving forward means about three more weeks on crutches for Westbrook, who had surgery last week. He didn’t say anything about a timetable for a return. Westbrook had not missed a game in five seasons in the NBA. He also never missed a game in college and said he never missed one in high school.
Houston coach Kevin McHale expressed a good amount of regret about Westbrook being injured and unavailable when talking to the media before and after Game 5 in Oklahoma City, a game the Rockets won. However, Westbrook said no one else on Houston’s team, aside from former teammate James Harden, reached out to him.
“James (Harden) texted me, and that was it,” Westbrook said. “I’m a competitive guy. Things like that happen.”
In Game 5, the Thunder’s Reggie Jackson bumped into Beverly as Beverly was getting ready to call a timeout, doing the same thing Beverly did to Westbrook. Beverly responded by throwing an elbow at Jackson and was immediately given a technical foul.
Westbrook averaged 24 points and seven assists during the first two games of the playoffs – both Thunder wins. Oklahoma City went on to beat Houston in six games and is tied with Memphis at a game apiece heading into Saturday’s game at Memphis.
And while he said he knew something was wrong with his knee, Westbrook admitted he was surprised to learn he would be out for the rest of the playoffs.
“It felt weird,” he said. “I went through it and played. “You never want to be out for the whole year. It was disappointing.”
Westbrook has been unable to travel with the team so far since the injury and won’t be going to Memphis, either. He has watched the past three Thunder home games from a suite inside Chesapeake Arena.
“It’s different seeing it from a different view like a fan,” Westbrook said. “Maybe I can see what you guys see. You know, like all the crazy shots I take.”
The Thunder and their fans are certainly missing all those “crazy” shots now. Westbrook was an All-Star this season and averaged 23.2 points and 7.4 assists during the regular season.
Reggie Jackson has taken over for Westbrook in the starting lineup and has averaged 13.3 points in 30 minutes per game this postseason. The injury to Westbrook has also meant more playing time for the 38-year-old Derek Fisher. Fisher scored 19 points in Game 2 against Memphis and is 15 of 23 in his past five games from the 3-point line.
“I don’t want to let my team down,” he said. “I want to compete. This time I wasn’t able to walk or run like I was supposed to. It (the knee) felt different than usual. It was stressful. I got home and it was hurting. Getting an MRI is scary. Once I got that, things got real.”