After sitting out a game for the first time in his life when he was physically able to play, Russell Westbrook was asked Monday if he slept better or worse Sunday night.
“I slept good actually,” Westbrook said, smiling. “I slept good. I'm well-rested, I can tell you that.”
That was the plan.
Westbrook received the night off in the Thunder's home win over Utah on Sunday, surprisingly becoming the first rotation player in Thunder history to take a game off for rest.
It's a strategy other veteran, championship-caliber teams such as San Antonio and Miami routinely employ but one Oklahoma City had shunned before Sunday.
Under normal circumstances, Westbrook would have been the last player on the roster to use “rest” as a reason for missing a game. He had played 394 consecutive regular season contests, the most among active players, before his streak was snapped in the season opener. So it was safe to assume that sitting was not exactly Westbrook's idea. He doesn't like to miss games.
“Nah, I don't,” he said. “But I also got my body to worry about and worry about the future as well.”
Sunday's night off was the Thunder simply striving to protect Westbrook's present and future. The All-Star point guard on Nov. 3 returned earlier than expected from a second offseason knee surgery, and the decision to sit Westbrook against the Jazz was made with the sole intention of getting him more rest throughout the regular season as he continues to regain his form.
Westbrook and team officials all insist that the knee is fine.
“Everything is good,” Westbrook said.
But with two days off following last Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers, and another two days off following the Jazz game, the Thunder saw a rare opportunity to get Westbrook five days of rest going into Wednesday's showdown with San Antonio. It's a creative way to manage the schedule and something the Thunder intends to do more as the season goes on.
“It's planned throughout the season,” Westbrook said. “It's 82 games of nonstop, and right now is the best time for me to take a break regardless of who we were playing. But on the schedule, we sit down and look at the schedule each month and try to find the best way to get me recovered.”
Asked if he agreed with the philosophy, Westbrook said “Yeah, I'm cool with it.”
“I don't know if it's going to happen every time. But I just know that was the best thing for right now,” he said.