The wait will continue.
And so will the questions.
Thunder media day came and went Friday with a record number of reporters all coming up empty in their search for any clues to the biggest mystery currently surrounding this basketball team.
When will Russell Westbrook return?
The All-Star point guard, perhaps unintentionally, added to the ambiguity when he uttered three frightful words.
“I'm not sure,” Westbrook said when asked specifically whether he is “expecting” or “hoping” to be back for the start of the regular season.
“I just wake up in the morning, get to my rehab and then go back to sleep and do it all over again. I just take it one day at a time, man, and try not to look ahead. When something like this happens you have to take it slow. I mean, there's no need for me to rush into looking ahead on the schedule or anything like that. Just take it one day at a time and try to find a way to get back.”
Westbrook and Thunder general manager Sam Presti expressed similar sentiments earlier this week to The Oklahoman, and Westbrook's media session Friday reinforced those statements more than shed any more light on when the All-Star point guard will make his 2013-14 debut.
Westbrook hasn't played since April 24, when Houston guard Patrick Beverley dove into his right leg and tore his lateral meniscus. At his preseason news conference Wednesday, Presti said Westbrook is “healing properly” and “on pace.”
Since the injury was announced, however, both the player and the team have been careful to not provide any timetables for Westbrook's return to basketball activities.
“I don't know how long the process takes normally,” Westbrook said. “Everybody's body is different. I think once people see a certain knee injury everybody expects (the timeline to be) three or four months, or they say 10 days. But everybody reacts to certain injuries different. This is my first time ever being hurt and being out this long.”
Before his injury, which occurred in Game 2 of the Thunder's first-round playoff series with the Rockets, Westbrook had developed a reputation as of an ironman. He had never missed a game in high school, college or his professional career. His 394 consecutive regular-season games played still stand as the league's longest active streak.
When asked about his state of mind Friday, Westbrook said he remains positive and confident.
“In the process of rehab you have to be confident in knowing everything is healing like it's supposed to,” Westbrook said. “I'm just confident and I'm taking it one day at a time.”
Westbrook said he is now doing a lot of spot shooting and trying to get his rhythm back. He added that “on the first day of training camp I'll be on the floor.” The question is how much Westbrook will be able to do and how soon as the Thunder begins practice Saturday.
“He will participate in some of our practices, some of the things we planned out three or four months prior to the training camp,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But the last 24 hours he had a little bit of swelling. That's something we will monitor. But that's pretty common when you have a surgery. You're going to have some peaks and valleys.”
Other players have torn their meniscus recently, but searching for clues in their recoveries are futile exercises. Those players, like Reggie Williams, Derrick Caracter and Eric Bledsoe, are either nowhere near the talent Westbrook is or, like Chris Paul, not nearly as explosive. Paul, who suffered his setback in February 2010, played 80 games the next season but saw a dip in his scoring, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage and minutes. Though Paul's raw statistical production has fluctuated in the past two seasons, he is again widely regarded as the best point guard in basketball.
Westbrook said again Friday that he doesn't plan on changing his style of play.
“Not at all,” he said.
The Thunder will practice in Oklahoma City through Tuesday before departing for Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday. The team is scheduled to play its preseason opener on Oct. 5.