“It's going to take time,” Westbrook said. “You really kind of got to sit back and think about it. I mean, I don't play basketball for six months. And then I come back. Compared to everybody else, the rehab process is a tough process. It's still a rehab process. Your legs got to get stronger, your body, all your muscles got to get used to working and getting back going. So it's a process, and once you feel like that then you give it a go.”
Westbrook called the current layoff a great week for him to “get my mind and my body right and ready to go for the next game.”
The team's willingness to sit Westbrook, as well as the strategy's apparent effectiveness, makes you wonder whether the Thunder will implement the approach with other players.
It would take a culture change by Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who has spoke often about not sitting players out of respect to the game, the opponent and the fans. Thunder players, Brooks said, also have been young enough to play all 82 games. If rest ever was warranted, Brooks' preferred method was limiting practice sessions.
“I think our team has evolved,” Brooks said when asked about the approach. “I think it's player to player, game to game. It won't happen often. If it does happen, it'll be something that we've put a lot of thought into it. This last one, to me, was a no-brainer. It was an easy decision with Russell going through the process. But if he wasn't going through the process he would have played.”
But with this can of worms now cracked, could it be possible that a player like Kevin Durant, who is averaging 38.5 minutes for the second straight season, also will see some nights off?
“It's something that we will consider. If we need it, we definitely will consider (it),” Brooks said. “It's not something that we're looking into and strategizing with other guys. But with Russell, it's part of the process.”
And part of the process for Westbrook, and now it seems fans, is maintaining patience.
“It's tough,” Westbrook said. “But I realized once I got hurt that's what it was going to take from the get go, just being patient and listening to the training staff and listening to the doctors as well.”