OKLAHOMA CITY —
In the second game against the Rockets in the first round, Westbrook tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee when he banged knees with Patrick Beverly. The Thunder advanced past Houston without Westbrook, but it lost twice in the series following the injury and become increasingly reliant on Durant for offense.
Durant averaged 28.1 points per game last season, narrowly missing a fourth scoring title behind New York’s Carmelo Anthony. Without Westbrook’s production, however, Durant’s shooting percentage dropped from 51 percent in the regular season to 42 percent in the playoff loss to the Grizzlies.
The seventh-year pro turns 25 on Sunday and joked that he’s “getting up there a little bit.” Durant called last season’s playoff run without Westbrook “different.” He said the Thunder learned from the time without its point guard, and he said the team doesn’t feel like it took a step back following its trip to the NBA Finals one year earlier.
“We feel that we’re in a good position; that’s all that really matters,” Durant said. “We’re all really excited. If we come in thinking we lost momentum, or anything like that, that will mess us up.”
Westbrook said once he’s fully recovered, he doesn’t plan on changing anything about his playing style, including his ability to drive to the basket.
While he’s waiting for full clearance from doctors, Westbrook expects Oklahoma City’s high expectation level to remain the same, with or without him on the court during games. He said that’s a product of an experienced core group that has returned “smarter” this season in the wake of his injury.
“I think my voice can be as good as my play,” Westbrook said. “I think me talking and trying to find a way to lead is as good as me playing.”
Oklahoma City enters this season in need of offensive help alongside Durant and Westbrook following the departure of Kevin Martin, who averaged 14 points per game last season, to Minnesota as a free agent.
Some of the offense is expected to be picked up by third-year guard Reggie Jackson, who averaged 13.9 points in the playoffs after averaging just 5.3 during the regular season. Also, forward Serge Ibaka returns after averaging 13.2 points per game last season.