Rockets guard Russell Westbrook has not been on the floor in each of the first two games of the Western Conference playoffs, but the former MVP has certainly made an impact on the sidelines.
Westbrook has been more than an active member of the Rockets bench as he nurses a right quad injury, serving as a leading cheerleader and secondary coach as James Harden and Co. look to take down Oklahoma City. And even with a sore quad, Westbrook has still been able to make his presence felt after made baskets and timeouts.
“He better be cheering, he’s got nothing else to do,” Harden said postgame. “Russ is our leader. His communication, his voice matters to us."
Westbrook’s sheer bravado may be an anomaly on Houston’s bench, though he isn’t the only player currently out of the rotation making an impact. Veteran center Tyson Chandler has emerged as a valuable member of the team both on the sidelines and in the locker room, dishing out advice and encouragement after over 31,000 NBA minutes.
“We don’t have fans here, so it’s really up to the bench and the players that will come in to generate the energy we need to get over tough times or fatigue battles,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said following Houston’s Game 2 win on Thursday. "They’ve been great. Russell, Tyson Chandler who hasn’t played, you hear his voice always. You can’t put a premium on that. been super encouraging. It’s been fantastic.”
Chandler is unlikely to play in the 2020 playoffs barring an emergency situation. As for Westbrook, there is no timetable for his return, though D’Antoni did say the point guard’s quad is “progressing.” Westbrook’s status for Game 3 has yet to be announced.
James Harden and the Rockets will look to take a 3–0 lead over the Thunder on Saturday. Tip-off from Orlando is slated for 5 p.m. CT.