OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook expects to be on crutches for about four to five weeks as he returns from knee surgery that has knocked him out of the Oklahoma City Thunder's playoff run.
Westbrook held his first interview session Thursday since having surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee. He was hurt in Game 2 of Oklahoma City's first-round playoff series with Houston.
The Thunder have gone 3-3 without him and head to Memphis on Saturday for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals. That series is tied 1-1.
Westbrook had never missed a game — in the regular season or playoffs — in his five NBA seasons before the injury, and he never had a serious injury before that either.
"It's tough, man," Westbrook said after walking into an interview room on his crutches. "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 I'm able to walk, but this time I wasn't able to walk around like I'm supposed to."
Westbrook's injury has forced second-year guard Reggie Jackson into the starting lineup, while three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant has taken on more of the ball-handling duties. Durant is averaging 35.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists since Westbrook went down.
"I think we have a tough group of guys finding a way to win games. The group of guys we have, I think we have enough to get a ring," Westbrook said. "In my honest opinion, we've been together long enough to be able to figure things out when guys go down, and I think you can see that."
Westbrook has been unable to travel with the team, and he won't be making the trip to Memphis this weekend. He said he has been attending practices, hanging around his teammates and trying to make game days as normal as possible even though he's watching from a suite instead of playing.
"As a point guard and a leader of this team, my job is to find a way where I can help," Westbrook said. "My teammates, the coaching staff and the organization, they've been a big supporter of me and my job is to give it back and help them out as much as I can and give my input."
Westbrook was hurt on April 24 when Rockets rookie Patrick Beverley lunged for a steal as Westbrook stopped to call a timeout in the second quarter of Game 2. He remained in the game, which the Thunder won 105-102, and it wasn't until two days later that the team announced he'd miss the rest of the playoffs.