Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook held a press conference Thursday morning, speaking for the first time about his season-ending knee injury and what life has been like for him and the Thunder in the aftermath of his first major injury.
Here is a transcript of Westbrook's press conference.
Did you know immediately something was wrong?
Kind of. Kind of sort of. Not a hundred percent, but it definitely felt a little different than usual. But at the same time I was still trying to help my team win the game and go out there and compete.
What were the next 24-48 hours were like?
It was stressful. 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.
How difficult was it to make the decision to shut it down for the season?
It's tough, man. I don't want to let my team down. I want to compete. I love playing. I want to play in every game as long as I'm able to and able to walk. But this time I wasn't able to walk and run like I was supposed to.
Was this different because you never missed a game? Did you feel like you could play through anything?
It's tough. If I'm able to play and able to move around I'm going to play in the game. During this time it was tough for me to kind of sit back and weigh my options on what I wanted to do moving forward.
How hard has it been for you to have to watch the team play?
It's tough, man. But as a point guard and a leader of this team my job is to find a way where I can help my teammates, the coaching staff and the organization. They've been a big supporter of me. And my job is to give it back. Help them out as much as I can and give my input.
How have teammates tried to keep your spirits up?
Just keeping it normal. I think my teammates and, like I said, the fans and the organization has done a great job of keeping it normal. Sending their thoughts and prayers. My teammates definitely, every day always checking on me, which is a great thing. And I feel like my job is to give my input. I'm watching all the games and things like that from a different view now. I never got the chance to sit back and really watch the games so I got a lot of different things that I can say and see.
What's it like watching from the stands?
It's different. 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.
When did you find out? Was it that Friday morning?
Yeah. We kind of sat down, the medical staff and myself and they decided that was the best decision for me.
Did you think you could play through it?
No. When I was playing on it I was basically playing on one leg. 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.
How much pain were you in the night it happened?
A lot because half of it was halftime. 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.
Have you had a chance to see the play? Do you have any thoughts on whether it was dirty or a basketball play?
I've seen it numerous times. That's really something I can't answer. I just hope it wasn't a dirty play. But just moving forward I'm just going to do better, rehab and try to come back better.
What's harder, getting through the mental part of it or the physical aspect?
Both. I never had to rehab anything. This is tough, coming in doing the same thing every day. And then mentally it can be tough. I mean, you've got to keep your spirits high, stay positive and then come in with a mindset of trying to get better.
What have you learned about this team in your absence?
They're tough. I think we have a tough group of guys. We're finding a way to win games. The group of guys we have, I think we have enough to get a ring. I honestly think we've been together long enough to be able to figure things out when guys go down. You can see that.
What have you seen out of Reggie Jackson?
Reggie's done a great job of playing his game. He's been playing with good composure I think, especially going to Houston and taking care of those games and now getting ready to head to Memphis. I think he's done a great job of just controlling the game. Obviously KD handles the ball a little more. But I think Reggie's done a great job of just being consistent and playing his game.
What's been your reaction to the support of the fans?
It's great, man. It's amazing. Like I said, we have the best fan support in all of sports. They do a great job of just supporting you. Whatever it is that you may be going through or they may think you're going through, they help you out and try to find a way to help you get through it.
Do you have any idea of your timetable for traveling with the team or sitting on the bench?
Nah. I just know for now I can't travel, which is tough. But I'm just going to do rehab each and every day. Try to find a way to get off them crutches.
Have you ever been through anything this difficult in life before?
Yeah, I have. I have. I definitely have. But this is a different type of injury or different type of event I would say in my life. But it's something that I've got to find a way to get over.
What would you say to fans saying maybe it'll be different if you were in the game? How would you encourage them as the team moves on?
Just have confidence in the group of guys we have. I think the group of guys that's on the floor is a talented group. They know a lot about the game. We do a lot of film and things like that. They work on their game as much as I would and we have it in control.
What is your timetable for when you can start doing basketball things?
Not sure. I just know for the first four to five weeks I'm on them crutches. And when I get off the crutches then we kind of sit down and see what the timetable is for me.
What's rehab like now?
Just strengthening my quad and try to find a way to keep my leg strong.
Are you doing other stuff like weight work or anything else, even?
No, I can't do that now.
Even upper body stuff?
No. Not really. I try to but not much.
Will you be able to get a ball in your hands in the foreseeable future?
Yeah. I mean, not now. I mean, there's really no need for me to do it right now. It's kind of like I just have to wait until I get off the crutches and try to find a way to slowly get myself back. There's no need for me to rush now. I just got to wait.
Are you giving any input in practices?
Definitely. That's my job moving forward. Just kind of sit back and (figure out) where I can help my team. Try to throw in input at halftime and whenever I can, in film, during practice or whenever they need me to.
Are you watching practices and sitting in the locker room at halftime?
Yeah, as much as I can, especially any home games before the games. Just like normal. Just try to keep it as normal as possible. Stay around the guys. I may say a few things here and there. But not too much. Just kind of let them play. That's what I try to do.
Are you especially vocal with a guy like Reggie Jackson?
Definitely. I'm definitely talking to Reggie a lot more. But I also want him to learn and get better. You don't want to tell a guy to go out there and do all these different things. You kind of what him to learn. It's a learning process for him as well as it is me.
Coach Brooks talked about Reggie being ready to step in. how much of that has to do with the way he's been brought up in this organization, working with the coaches, being sent to Tulsa, all that?
It's a huge part. I think the whole process, a lot of people may skip through that. Going to Tulsa, coming back up and playing in different games. Reggie missed half of the year, didn't play. And then he started playing. I think all of that is a process and you can see it's helping him out. He never really looked rattle or anything. He's kind of just smooth and plays his game.
Coach McHale had a lot of nice things to say about you right after the injury. did anyone else form the Houston team reach out to you. did Patrick Beverley say anything to you?
Um, nope. Just James (Harden). James texted me, and that was it.
What's been the most surreal or weirdest moment in all of this?
Waking up from surgery. (laughs)
What do you remember from that?
Nothing much. (laughs). But 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. 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.'
Did you have pain at that point, after the surgery?
No. I was feeling pretty good. I mean, all the meds (laughs). I was all right.
Everyone knows how competitive you are. Hard to imagine you'll be even more competitive after this. But what's your outlook when you do come back next season?
Come back better. Come back better. A better player. Mentally, I think that's the biggest thing. Mentally it's going to be a big step for myself and moving forward with this team.
Outside of rehab, what are you doing to keep yourself busy?
Movies. Watching movies. Hanging out at home with the family. Here with the guys. Hanging with the guys. Other than that, can't do much. Can't drive yet. So I'm kind of just chilling.
Why will you be better mentally?
I think I get an opportunity to sit back. This is my first time basically seeing the game from a different view. I may sit out for a few minutes here and there. But to kind of sit back and watch a whole game when I'm not playing is different. This is my first time doing it, and it's something that can help me; to see some of the things that maybe you guys see or somebody may see. The crazy shots I shoot or the time and possession (laughs), you can kind of see different things. So I think it's good for me.
Of all the nasty falls you've taken and all the nasty spills and all the contact you've taken, to go down like this?
Yeah, it's disappointing. It's definitely disappointing. But it's part of sports. It's kind of things that happen in sports and it's unfortunate. But at the same time it's also a time for me to find a way I can do other things. To find a way I can help in other ways.
Will you rehab in Oklahoma? You've always gone back home.
Yes, I'll rehab here in Oklahoma and try to find a way to get back.
Did you have a wide range of emotions? When it first happened you were obviously angry. How long until the anger wore off and reality set in?
It hasn't worn off?
During the game, like I said, I'm a competitive guy and things like that happen. And at the time, I knew something was wrong with my knee because it felt weird. At the time, it was kind of painful. But I kind of just went through it and played throughout the game.
What about when you found out you would be out for the season? What were your emotions then?
I was disappointed, man. It was disappointing. You never want to be out the whole year. Especially (not be able to) help my team out during the playoffs. This is a time where guys play through everything. And this is something that I couldn't play through. It's tough.
When you banged the scorer's table, was that because you knew immediately that something was wrong?
I just knew it hurt at the time. It was a sign of emotion. Just hitting the table was just like, ‘Dang, my knee hurt.'
You talked about having to watch the game as a fan. Sometimes fans get excited, fist pump, they're jumping up and down. Has it changed how you can react to a great play or a great win?
No, not really. I can't do much. But I fist pump from time to time and try to find a way to help cheer my team on.
Watching this team these last six games, what's been your favorite moment?
How competitive we've been. I think when we lost the game here, when we played Houston, I don't know what game that was, Game 5, I thought a lot of people was kind of like, ‘Well, maybe they won't be able to do it.' And I think as a team they came together and did a great job going to Houston and taking care of business and playing Thunder basketball. And I think that's been a big step for our team of moving forward. Everybody stepped up. Everybody has a role to increase.
What has Kevin Durant been talking to you about during this time?
We just talk about the game, about different things, how he can help change the game; helping us moving forward. Talking about what I can do to help the team and help him out. Find a way where we can both contribute.
So are you teaching him some point guard skills?
(Laughs). Nah. I talk to him from time to time, basically every day. 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.
How has your support system been throughout all this?
Great, man. My family's the best. My mom, dad, brother, girlfriend. They've been amazing. They've done a great job of just helping me out whenever I need it. They've been around, travel with me. Just helping me out. It's great. They've been great.
You've proved your worth a little more each year. But maybe never have you proved your worth more than when you're out. Does that hurt you to hear how important you are to this team? Do you try to not listen to the news about the Thunder now?
It just hurts not to help. I think it hurts me not to help, not to be able to go out there and help my team. I really don't listen to that stuff. Try to just, like I said, find a way where I can help. 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.