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How good will Russell Westbrook be upon his return?

Sep 16, 2013, 1:18 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook takes a break on the court against the Houston Rockets in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City. Reuters

The good news is Russell Westbrook will be on the court with the Oklahoma City Thunder when training camp starts in a couple of weeks — he is recovered from the torn meniscus that knocked him out of the playoffs last season, and ultimately knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs as well.

But will he be the same player? If not immediately, when?

Both Westbrook and Derrick Rose present interesting cases returning from major knee injuries because both have games based around their explosive athleticism. Even if the knee is physically healed, will they trust it to make the same moves and cuts they did before? Or will that come with time.

Darnell Mayberry (one of the better beat writers out there) was asking that at the Oklahoman and suggested Westbrook be given some latitude at the start of the season.

For five seasons we’ve watched Westbrook display one of the most fearless styles of play on the planet. His relentless attack has always put pressure on defenses and given the Thunder a go-to option whenever all else fails. But will Westbrook still have that same gear with a reconstructed knee? Will he still have that same mentality?

Westbrook is expected to make a full recovery from the torn meniscus he suffered on April 24. But he may not be 100 percent to start the season. As a result, we may see a different player initially than the Tasmanian devil we’ve grown accustomed to. After an offseason of rehab, Westbrook’s confidence and rhythm will be worth monitoring just as much as his motor and athleticism.

What matters is that the explosiveness and moves come back with time. Oklahoma City is going to win a whole lot of regular season games in large part because there is no way to prepare for Kevin Durant or Westbrook on a nightly basis (plus the Thunder have other parts that make them a good all-around team). However, come the playoffs the Thunder are going to need more from Westbrook and Durant because of the lack of a trusted third scoring option (unless you think that is Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb, I’m not sold).

Come the playoffs, the Thunder need the old Westbrook, however at the start of the season his performance is something to watch (same with Rose).

  1. kingwithringz - Sep 16, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    The Russell WestBrook and Derrick Rose Bowl; should be interesting.

    • fanofevilempire - Sep 16, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      Thunder have to get a real coach to win it all.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 16, 2013 at 11:15 PM

        They need a time machine and Perkins to get injured

  2. antistratfordian - Sep 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    It will probably take him at least a season to get back to being somewhere near his old self. Same with Rose. With Kobe it may not ever happen because of his age, but you never know.

    I can’t wait to see the fans go ape when “they” do #NBArank and Kobe is in the 30s.

    • asimonetti88 - Sep 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      People complain about the amount of Lakers stories on this site, yet here we are on an article that has absolutely nothing to do with the Lakers or Kobe, and someone brings it up unprovoked.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 16, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        “..yet here we are on an article that has absolutely nothing to do with the Lakers or Kobe…”

        This article is about players returning from injury. Derrick Rose is even mentioned. So it has something to do with Kobe. You really need to lighten up.

      • asimonetti88 - Sep 16, 2013 at 3:54 PM

        Correct. Derrick Rose is mentioned. I’m looking for where Kobe was brought up before you.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 16, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        well it stands to reason that Kobe is brought up when the article focuses on a perceived ‘star’ player returning from a severe injury. The NBArank comment is out of left field, however, even if it’s correct.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 16, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        This wise guy thinks it’s inappropriate to talk about Kobe Bryant in an article about elite basketball players returning from injury. turbofacepalm.gif

        Look, I’m not talking about Obamacare or LeBron’s wedding. Kobe is relevant here, if you cannot see why then I can’t help you.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 16, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        “The NBArank comment is out of left field, however, even if it’s correct.”

        No, that’s not out of left field. He is going to be ranked lower because of his injury – same with Westbrook and Rose. It’s still relevant.

      • asimonetti88 - Sep 16, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        You must have the Lakers on your brain then. I am a Lakers fan, and when I was reading this article, not once did the Lakers or Kobe enter my mind.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 16, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        If an article was written about why Steve Nash was such a good free throw shooter, I will likely think of other great free throw shooters and I may mention them in the comments. That doesn’t mean I have their teams on my brain.

        And I know you wouldn’t be so emotional under those circumstances complaining about why I’m bringing up Chauncey Billups in an article that “has nothing to do with him.”

        Why don’t we leave it like this: I apologize if my projection for Kobe was so veracious that it stung and caused buttfrustration. I would not wish buttfrustration on anyone, and never on a Lakers fan.


  3. cg2424 - Sep 16, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    “Reconstructed knee” and the D. Rose comparison makes it sound like he’s coming back from a full blown ACL repair. It was a meniscus issue and if you recall, they chose to play it safe and perform the corrective surgery rather than let it heal on its own so that Westbrook could come back should the Thunder advance in the playoffs last year. He’s had plenty of time to rehab and he’s going to be fine. If anything, his “Tasmanian devil” mentality should aid in his ability to trust the knee quickly and return to his old form.

  4. asimonetti88 - Sep 16, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    I’m interested to see what Jeremy Lamb can do. He has a lot of potential to be the scorer the Thunder need him to be. If he has improved his ballhandling, he will be able to find shots for himself more. Hopefully the Thunder’s coaching staff has worked on his attitude with him to take more of an aggressive approach to scoring. Sometimes in college he played far too passively.

  5. grapenutz08 - Sep 16, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    I love the pseudo-doctors on this blog…trying to predict when Russ will be back. This is the same injury and surgery Blake Griffin had last yr before the Olympics….and he was fine. and blake is pretty damn explosive

  6. kingwithringz - Sep 16, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Play nice girls. ^^^^^^^^^^

  7. mickdamill - Sep 16, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    Rose and Westbrook are both elite atheletes and will come back without losing a step. Westbrooks injury was not a result or attributed to “fearless play”.

  8. andyreidisfat - Sep 16, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Westbrook will be fine. He had an Mcl, that’s the easiest ligament to recover from. Not sure if rose is ever going to be fine, but I hope so, he is fun to watch.

    The guy I know will be fine and probably by opening day is Kobe. I can’t stand the dude but I still gotta respect the will and need to that guy has. He is the only guy close to as competitive as Jordan and the great one were as far as being a competitor.

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