Russell Westbrook ready to play for Thunder

Russell Westbrook apparently is a quick healer.

The All-Star point guard, sidelined for the past six months with

a knee injury, was set to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder

lineup for Sunday night’s home game against the Phoenix Suns, weeks

earlier than expected. Westbrook was slated to start instead of

easing back into action.

”Rehab is a tough process,” Westbrook said. ”I’m going to

continue to rehab throughout the season, before the game, whatever

I need to do to stay healthy throughout the year. It’s a tough

process, but I’m thankful for . everybody that supported me

throughout the process.

”I’m just happy to be back on the floor.”

Before Sunday, Westbrook hadn’t played since tearing the lateral

meniscus in his right knee during the second game of the NBA

playoffs last April. The injury occurred when Houston Rockets guard

Patrick Beverley banged knees with him while going for a steal

after Westbrook had stopped to call a timeout.

Westbrook underwent an initial surgery for the injury on April

27. He underwent another surgery on Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch

from the first procedure. At the time, the Thunder said he would

miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season. Under that

timetable, Westbrook could have been out for as many as 22

games.

Instead, he missed only two games – a win at Utah on Wednesday

and a loss at Minnesota on Friday. Westbrook said he never expected

to be out four to six weeks.

”I don’t know who made that up in the first place,” he said.

”I was never on that timeline at all. I was just taking it day by

day and going one day at a time until I was ready to play.”

Thunder General Manager Sam Presti called Westbrook’s

rehabilitation process ”methodical” and said it ”has been

instrumental in getting Russell to this point.” Presti said the

process included physical and medical benchmarks, the final one

being ”unrestricted basketball activity.”

Presti said the team, doctors, Westbrook’s representatives and

Westbrook all agreed ”that returning to play was the correct next

step.” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said the team found out late

Saturday that Westbrook would be able to play Sunday.

Asked if he thought he might be a bit rusty after such a long

layoff, Westbrook replied, ”I expect to win. I just expect to go

out there and play hard, have fun with my teammates and try to

win.

”It’s going to be a little different, to get back in the groove

of things, find a rhythm, whatever it may be. But we’ll take it day

by day and try to get it together.”