On the Thunder's first offensive possession, Russell Westbrook was back to his old ways Sunday night.
Using a high ball screen, Westbrook slithered himself into the painted area with the same electric speed we've grown accustomed to seeing the last five seasons. He split the pick and roll the second the help hedged out an inch too far. Two dribbles later, he was back in the lane, back into the teeth of the defense and back where the Thunder needs him most.
A helpless Phoenix defender's only choice was to foul, preventing a possible highlight that has been in the making for more than six months.
Forty seconds into his long-awaited return, Westbrook was ready to unleash that unmatched explosiveness.
The Suns saw it first, and Dallas is on deck.
Westbrook is back, and if he's not better than ever, his season debut, a 103-96 Thunder win, provided glimpses of what's in store.
In his first game since a torn meniscus ended his postseason on April 24, Westbrook scored 21 points with four rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. His performance wasn't without its flaws, as evidenced by his 5-for-16 shooting and his four turnovers. But more significantly, it was an effort in which Westbrook put the league on notice that his surgically-repaired knee is doing just fine.
“I just missed some easy ones, but that will come,” Westbrook said. “But I'm able to do what I want.”
The easy ones included shots and reads, plays that Westbrook routinely makes when in rhythm. Right now, Westbrook admitted he's rusty.
“That's expected,” Westbrook said. “But I'm going to continue to stay in attack mode and continue to try to win.”