As for what is perhaps the biggest question, his playing style, Westbrook nearly scoffed at the idea that it might be different. His retort: “not at all.”
“Every season I try to come back and be a better player,” Westbrook said. “This season should be no different. I should try to come back and be a better player, better teammate and come back and try to win.”
Still, for as confident as Westbrook sounds, both he and the team knows this recovery will take time. The organization, historically cautious with injuries, is again playing it safe with Westbrook. The team wants to make sure Westbrook is healthy not just to start the season but also maintains that health throughout the season and throughout his career.
“When he returns to play, he's not returning to play for that specific day, he's returning to play at a level for a very, very long time,” Presti said. “And we want to make sure that the process is reflective of how serious we were taking his return to the court.”
Westbrook, who was forced to watch the Thunder's final nine playoff games from either a suite inside Chesapeake Energy Arena or his couch, said his motivation throughout rehab was simple.
“I want to get back on the floor,” Westbrook said. “I see my teammates out there and want to go out there and help them. It was tough watching them in the playoffs, and it was tough for me getting down to business in the summer on my rehab. It's just buckling down and taking it one day at a time. I come in every morning and do what I need to do and just think about the next day after that. That's just the process of wanting to get better, wanting to get stronger and wanting to come back better.”
Now, Westbrook is weeks away from his long-awaited return.
“I'll probably be a little overhyped,” Westbrook said of his first game back. “I can't wait to get back on the floor, especially in front of our fans. It'd be almost like my first game when I was a rookie.”