The Norman Transcript

May 10, 2013

Westbrook leading Thunder from the sidelines

Rehab a new experience for All-Star guard

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — One of Russell Westbrook’s greatest strengths is his endless supply of energy. Whenever the Oklahoma City guard is on the court, he seems like he’s bouncing off walls, ready to make something happen.

These days, Westbrook is a little more subdued. The all-star guard spends most of his days watching movies and expects to be on crutches for at least another month. With his team facing Memphis in the Western Conference semifinals, it’s not where he envisioned himself being.

“Waking up from surgery was a little weird, because I can just remember going to the hospital and then I just remember my mom sitting there when I woke up,” Westbrook said. “That’s the only thing that hits you, like ‘dang, I’m sitting in this bed with this surgery and my knee is messed up and I really can’t do much.’”

Westbrook met with the media Thursday for the first time since having surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee, which he injured April 24 in Game 2 of the Thunder’s first-round playoff series with Houston. He talked on a wide range of topics, including his emotions after the season-ending collision with Patrick Beverley.

“It was stressful,” Westbrook said. “Definitely after the game my knee was hurting. When I got home, it was hurting. The morning after, it was hurting. Getting an MRI is always scary because it’s always something. I feel like every time somebody gets an MRI they always come back with some bad news. So it was stressful, and once I got the MRI, then things got real. I had to figure out what I needed to do.”

Westbrook said he knew something was wrong immediately, but he still played the rest of the game in severe pain.

“When I was playing on it, I was basically playing on one leg,” Westbrook said. “Kind of just hobbling around. You probably could notice, but kind of just hobbling around just trying to find a way where I can do what

I can to help my team win. And at the same time I was in pain. Once it got to halftime it got real stiff. So it was tough for me to come back and start running again and jumping. But as the game went on and the crowd is going, I’m going to continue to play and try to find a way I can help.”

Westbrook said he has seen the replay numerous times and hopes it wasn’t a dirty play.

But he isn’t planning to worry about it. His only concern is rehabbing his knee and getting back on the court.

After never missing a game since high school, he’s been reduced to a spectator for the first time in his basketball career.

“It’s different,” Westbrook said of watching from the stands. “It’s definitely different. Definitely sitting up in the sky box and kind of seeing the game from a different view, kind of like a fan. Just sitting back and kind of seeing every possession, how things are going and kind of seeing how we can do better.”

The Thunder have done what they can to help Westbrook during this time by keeping his spirits up. In return, he said he’s still offering advice and pointers even though he’s not on the floor.

That includes Kevin Durant, who has found different ways to communicate during games.

“I talk to him from time to time, basically every day,” Westbrook said. “Throughout a game and try to text him at halftime or talk to him at halftime. Just tell him what I see. Because it’s kind of hard. Playing and seeing are different things.”

Oklahoma City is 3-3 without Westbrook in the lineup. It’s coming off a loss to Memphis and will play Game 3 Saturday in Memphis. He said his team has proven how tough it is since his injury and still have enough talent to win a championship this season.

Yet, it’s still painful for Westbrook to not be in the fire with his team, battling every night. It’s one of the most difficult situations he has ever had to deal with, but he said that won’t stop him from being a leader.

“It just hurts not to help,” Westbrook said. “I think it hurts me not to help, not to be able to go out there and help my team. Even though I’m out, I still have a voice and I can help my team. Still find a way where I can communicate things to guys. Maybe they don’t listen, maybe they do. But I still have a point to where I can use my voice and try to find a way where I can help my team.”

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth

mkinney@normantranscript.com