ATLANTA — Russell Westbrook hasn’t been ruled out of tonight’s game against Atlanta.
But it’s no guarantee he’ll play, either.
Westbrook will be a game-time decision, coach Scott Brooks said, when the Thunder faces the Hawks at 6 p.m. central inside Philips Arena.
The Thunder’s All-Star point guard sustained a sprained left ankle with 5:46 remaining in the team’s 105-102 win at Orlando on Thursday. He remained in the game but was in obvious discomfort as he exited Amway Center with a bad limp. It looked so bad that it would be shocking if Westbrook didn’t miss a game.
But when Brooks on Saturday morning listed Westbrook as a game-time decision, it came as a surprise that he hadn’t already been ruled out. It sounded better, too.
“A lot better,” Brooks said. “We’ll see how he feels before the game. He’s improved a lot over the last day. He went through a little bit in shootaround today. We’ll see how he feels tonight.”
Westbrook was seen sitting on the sideline with several other teammates by the time media members were permitted into the team’s shootaround on the Hawks’ practice court. Westbrook walked out of the gym with his teammates, wearing sandals and showing much less of a limp, albeit still walking gingerly.
When asked how Westbrook’s mobility was, Brooks said it was “fine.”
“What he did today is not enough to make a decision,” Brooks said.
Westbrook has never missed a game since being drafted fourth overall in 2008. His streak of 282 games played is the third longest streak among active players. Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher ranks first among active players with 531 consecutive games played. Charlotte forward Boris Diaw is second with 383 straight games played.
Westbrook wasn’t made available to the media Saturday morning, but he said following the win at Orlando that he wouldn’t jeopardize his long term health just to keep his streak alive.
“I’m much more focused on my career,” he said. “I think missing a game instead of missing (more time) in the long run won’t hurt you. So we’ll just see how it feels and hopefully I’ll be able to play.”
Westbrook this season is averaging 23.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 35.3 minutes, all career-highs. He’s also averaging 5.6 assists and 1.8 steals.
It’s unclear who would start in place of Westbrook in the event he is unable to play. Rookie guard Reggie Jackson has served as the primary backup to Westbrook but has been erratic. Veteran guard Royal Ivey has been steady in a more limited role and could be an option as well.
James Harden, the team’s sixth man, seemingly wouldn’t start at point guard. But Harden has terrific playmaking ability, and he acknowledged that he could be used as a more of a lead guard in situational lineups throughout the game.
“I’ll have a lot more playmaking duties,” Harden said. “Not just scoring the ball, but also getting my teammates better shots and easier shots. We’ll see. Hopefully he plays, though.”