was selected to the All-NBA Second Team last season. (Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images)
The Thunder announced Sunday that Russell Westbrook will return to the court following knee surgery when the Thunder host the Suns Sunday night.
“Russell Westbrook has gone through a methodical rehab process jointly created by our medical and performance teams and treating physicians," Thunder GM Sam Presti said in a statement. "The process has been instrumental in getting Russell to this point and has included various physical and medical benchmarks. The final benchmark being unrestricted basketball activity. After hitting the necessary marks, all parties, including the team, consulting physicians, Russell’s representatives, and most importantly Russell, jointly determined that returning to play was the correct next step.”
The Oklahoman and Yahoo! Sports first reported that Oklahoma City’s All-Star guard will play in his team's third game of the season, even though he was initially expected to be sidelined for up to 21 games.
The Thunder initially announced that Westbrook would miss the first four-to-six weeks of the 2013-14 season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in early October. Westbrook previously underwent season-ending surgery to repair a meniscus tear in the same knee back in April. Two weeks ago, Westbrook participated in non-contact portions of a Thunder practice, and Yahoo! Sports reported last week that Westbrook could be back on the court as early as mid-November.
The Point Forward has previously asserted that Westbrook’s initial recovery timeline wasn’t the end of the world for a title-contending Oklahoma City team, in part because six of Oklahoma City’s first seven games are against 2013 lottery teams. Still, the Thunder will welcome him back with open arms, especially after an ugly 100-81 loss to the Timberwolves on Friday.
Reggie Jackson, 23, stepped in as the Thunder’s starting point guard in Westbrook’s absence. The third-year guard out of Boston College averaged 13.9 points and 3.6 assists when Westbrook was sidelined during the 2013 playoffs.
A speedy return to the court for Westbrook furthers crowd the Western Conference’s All-Star backcourt picture, as Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and Damian Lillard are all vying for spots. It would also move him back into the All-NBA conversation.
Westbrook, 24, averaged 23.2 points, 7.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals last season, earning All-NBA Second Team honors. He was selected to his third career All-Star Game.
Without Westbrook, Oklahoma City is 1-1 on the season.