The good news is Russell Westbrook will be on the court with the Oklahoma City Thunder when training camp starts in a couple of weeks — he is recovered from the torn meniscus that knocked him out of the playoffs last season, and ultimately knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs as well.
But will he be the same player? If not immediately, when?
Both Westbrook and Derrick Rose present interesting cases returning from major knee injuries because both have games based around their explosive athleticism. Even if the knee is physically healed, will they trust it to make the same moves and cuts they did before? Or will that come with time.
Darnell Mayberry (one of the better beat writers out there) was asking that at the Oklahoman and suggested Westbrook be given some latitude at the start of the season.
For five seasons we’ve watched Westbrook display one of the most fearless styles of play on the planet. His relentless attack has always put pressure on defenses and given the Thunder a go-to option whenever all else fails. But will Westbrook still have that same gear with a reconstructed knee? Will he still have that same mentality?
Westbrook is expected to make a full recovery from the torn meniscus he suffered on April 24. But he may not be 100 percent to start the season. As a result, we may see a different player initially than the Tasmanian devil we’ve grown accustomed to. After an offseason of rehab, Westbrook’s confidence and rhythm will be worth monitoring just as much as his motor and athleticism.
What matters is that the explosiveness and moves come back with time. Oklahoma City is going to win a whole lot of regular season games in large part because there is no way to prepare for Kevin Durant or Westbrook on a nightly basis (plus the Thunder have other parts that make them a good all-around team). However, come the playoffs the Thunder are going to need more from Westbrook and Durant because of the lack of a trusted third scoring option (unless you think that is Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb, I’m not sold).
Come the playoffs, the Thunder need the old Westbrook, however at the start of the season his performance is something to watch (same with Rose).