Russell Westbrook is expected to make his long-awaited return to the Oklahoma City Thunder lineup Sunday night in the team’s home opener against Phoenix, The Oklahoman has learned.
Westbrook has not played since tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee on April 24 in the Thunder’s first-round series against Houston.
But after passing all medical and physical benchmarks in his rehab, Westbrook, his representatives, physicians and medical team agreed that the All-Star point guard is ready to return.
The Thunder never set a date for Westbrook’s return, but the team originally announced that he would miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season after undergoing a second off-season surgery on Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch in his reconstructed knee. But he was widely believed to be ahead of schedule in his recovery, and his return for the third game of the season is largely a result of the conditioning he was in prior to the second procedure.
Thunder players, coaches and front office executives all said Westbrook looked great in on-court activities in the days leading up to training camp. But the loose stitch in his knee caused swelling that would not subside until Westbrook underwent the second procedure. Thunder general manager Sam Presti, however, said last month that the second surgery, though pushing back Westbrook’s return date, allowed the team an opportunity to see Westbrook’s meniscus and gain confidence that it had properly healed.
In recent days, Westbrook has participated in Thunder practices, wowing teammates with his performance.
“He looks good,” Kevin Durant said this week. “I don’t know the timetables or what the doctors are saying, but he looks good to me. Russell put in a lot of work, so I expected him to look like this. So we’ll see when he gets back out there. We’re waiting for him.”
Westbrook is not expected to be on a minute restriction.
Tip-off for the Thunder-Suns game inside Chesapeake Energy Arena in 6 p.m. and will air nationally on NBA TV, as well as regionally on Fox Sports.