SALT LAKE CITY — Seconds before a media relations staffer drew back the curtain separating reporters from the tail end of the Thunder’s shootaround Wednesday morning, Russell Westbrook, wearing a gray sweat suit, ducked into the team’s locker room.
Moments later, coaches and teammates then ducked questions about Westbrook reportedly being ahead of schedule in his rehab and nearing a return within the next two weeks.
“I read the report,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, referring to a Yahoo! Sports story citing league sources saying Westbrook has made significant progress and could return to the lineup within two weeks. “It’s something that I haven’t focused on. He has to continue to go through his rehab. And once he gets medical clearance to play in a game, that will happen. Until then, we’re just focusing on day-to-day as a group.”
When asked specifically if Westbrook is ahead of schedule, Brooks responded “no” before immediately elaborating.
“I mean, we don’t look at it that way,” Brooks said. “We look at it as there’s a rehab process that he has to go through every day. We don’t look at it as ‘Is he ahead, or is he behind?’ He just has to go through it every day, and when he gets cleared to play we will make that announcement. But (as of right now), he’s definitely not playing tonight.”
Brooks has been forthcoming in recent days about Westbrook participating in practices. The amount of activities Westbrook has been involved in, however, remains a mystery.
“He’s been practicing the last few days with us, and that will continue,” Brooks said. “And, like I said, until further notice I have not much else to say. It’s one of those things, you know, every day can’t be another question on is he going to play. Right now, he’s not playing, but we’re excited about the game tonight.”
Kevin Durant politely sidestepped questions about Westbrook’s return as well.
“I don’t know if I can say or not how I feel,” Durant said when asked if he thinks Westbrook is closer to a return. But he looks good. Like I said, 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.”
Durant was then asked if Westbrook is playing 5-on-5 in practices.
“No comment,” he said.
Westbrook underwent a second offseason surgery on Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch that had caused swelling in his surgically-repaired right knee. The team announced then that Westbrook was expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season.
A two-week timeline would put Westbrook’s return date at Nov. 13, a road date with the Los Angeles Clippers.