Via KWTV News 9:
"Russell has been playing pain free, but recently had experienced increased swelling."
Westbrook is expected to return post All-Star break.
It's honestly really hard to believe what we're hearing. I mean, we are two days removed from a Russell Westbrook triple-double in Madison Square Garden. He was nothing but smiles after the game, and even took some time out to clean the floor.
Earlier in the season, it was pretty obvious that Westbrook was still recovering from his double-dose of off-season knee surgeries. His explosiveness and athleticism were still there, but his shooting percentages were lower. He was also prone to slipping and falling down a little more than we're used to. But as time went on, his percentages went up and his game seemed to be as good as ever. Thus, I'm still in total shock.
Be sure to read the News 9 article for more information on the actual surgery. At this point, it's completely unclear as to whether the injury was re-aggravated, whether this is a new problem, or whether it was part of the original injury but was just never addressed. Still, it does appear that the Thunder have Westbrook's best interest in mind, and I'm glad that they decided to correct the issue immediately rather than putting his future at stake, especially with the epic knee problems faced by other players in the game today.
In terms of who will play in Westbrook's absence, we all already know how things will shake out. The Thunder have played 3 games without Westbrook so far, and Reggie Jackson was his starting replacement in all three. No benchwarmers will get a chance to see the floor, but Derek Fisher will switch positions and act as the defacto backup point guard. Meanwhile, Perry Jones III and Steven Adams will be virtually guaranteed rotational minutes.
In terms of how the Thunder will do without Westbrook, it's anybody's guess. The Thunder are 2-1 without Westbrook this season, and were 3-6 in last year's playoffs. The bench lineup appears to be stronger than ever, but Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, and Jeremy Lamb will have to step up and make regular scoring contributions if the team is to remain successful.
But Westbrook's scoring ability has never been his most valuable asset. It's his shot creating ability. He's been proven to be a huge part of Ibaka's success, and does extremely well to create space for other players. Without Westbrook, a large portion of the team has been shown to be less effective, and it's unclear as to whether Reggie Jackson can provide the same quality of glue. He simply isn't as aggressive of a scorer, and may hamper the starters with his more methodical style of offense.
All in all, everything we say at this point is just conjecture. But with a New Year's Eve test against the Blazers on the horizon, we'll soon begin to see just how valuable Westbrook is to this team, and how well the youngsters have grown.
What do you think about Westbrook's injury? Let us know in the comments!