The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to begin the 2018-19 NBA season without their best player.
All-Star guard Russell Westbrook has been ruled out of the Thunder’s ’18-19 season opener against the Golden State Warriors in the Bay on Tuesday night as he continues to recover from a knee surgery that he had in September, according to ESPN’s Royce Young.
Westbrook originally experienced stiffness in his right knee over the offseason, which lead to the team electing for him to have the surgery at the time that he did. If the former NBA MVP had waited to have the procedure done following the ’18-19 campaign, it could have potentially been something that lingered throughout season. Last week, head coach Billy Donovan revealed that Westbrook was progressing along, but that the organization was monitoring the All-Star guard in “controlled situations.”
Following the surgery in September, Westbrook was given a timetable of a four-week recovery period and he would be re-evaluated following those four weeks to determine how much longer he might be out.
While speaking with media members last month, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti made it clear that the team would not rush Westbrook back to action, even if he had to sit out some games.
“We’d never push Russell or any player onto the floor,” Presti said, via NBA.com. “It was a pretty minor thing he had done. We’ll see how that re-evaluation goes.”
Westbrook is coming off another phenomenal season in which he put together averages of 25.4 points, 10.3 assists, and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor. It was the second consecutive season that he averaged a triple-double and he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts the previous campaign. Earlier in the offseason, it was reported that Westbrook was working to improve his three-point shooting.
With Westbrook on the shelf, Dennis Schorder, who the team acquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade over the summer, served as the Thunder’s starting point guard during the preseason, and he put together averages of 15.3 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.3 rebounds. He will continue to start in Westbrook’s place into the regular season.
In addition to Westbrook’s absence, Thunder center Steven Adams has his own injury issues. Adams is dealing with lower back stiffness and he will be a game-time decision against the Warriors.
Adams did play in the team’s final preseason game on October 9 against the Milwaukee Bucks and scored 5 points on 2-of-4 shooting and secured five rebounds in 16 minutes of action.