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Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook makes surprising return

The star point guard, who was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after knee surgery, missed only four days and led the Thunder to victory over Phoenix.

November 09, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Thunder guard Russell Westbrook beats the Pistons defense for a layup in the first half of their game Friday night in Detroit.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook beats the Pistons defense for a layup in… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)

He's baaaack!

"And at guard, 6-3 from UCLA, No. 2, Russell Westbrook!"

Chesapeake Energy Arena was rocking last Sunday night when Oklahoma City's second-best player was unexpectedly the last starter introduced, an honor usually reserved for Kevin Durant.

That Westbrook was playing at all was an even bigger surprise.

The star point guard was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after knee surgery but in fact missed only four days, returning to lead the Thunder to victory over Phoenix.

He looked like his old self in the following days, driving past seemingly stuck-in-slow-motion defenders for dunks and layups.

"Will I be turbo Russ?" Westbrook said about an hour before his season debut, repeating a question from a reporter. "Of course."

Westbrook's speedy comeback puts Oklahoma City back among the contenders for the top seeding in the Western Conference. The Thunder's 19-point loss to Minnesota in the game preceding Westbrook's return highlighted the difficulties of relying exclusively on Durant, who was held to 13 points on four-for-11 shooting.

Durant was so excited for Westbrook's return that he ceded his customary spot as the final starter introduced during the home opener.

Welcome back, indeed.

Playing in pain

Not every comeback story induces goose bumps.

Andrew Bynum acknowledged he is contemplating retirement because of lingering discomfort in his knees, even though the Cleveland center has been relatively productive in limited minutes.

"Retirement was a thought, it was a serious thought. It still is," Bynum told reporters. "It's tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically. … I'm a shell of myself on the court right now. I'm just struggling mentally."

The Cavaliers have tried to ease Bynum back into playing after he sat out all of last season, limiting his practice participation and preventing him from playing in back-to-back games. It may not be enough for a 26-year-old who says he continues to experience sharp pains in his knees.

"I just want to be able to play without pain and find the joy again," said Bynum, who is averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.8 minutes.

Not letting it go

Chris Kaman provided reporters with a quickie analysis of Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle and Lakers counterpart Mike D'Antoni before Kaman's Lakers played his former team.

"Coach Carlisle is uptight and kind of plays games with people here and there," said Kaman, whose playing time was spotty in his one season as a Maverick. "Coach D'Antoni is more relaxed. He lets guys get a feel and make mistakes and play. You can't micromanage every situation and pull a guy in and out and in and out. It just doesn't work that way."

Carlisle, after initially declining to say much about Kaman, turned chatty after his Mavericks beat the Lakers, 123-104.

As reporters stood around Dirk Nowitzki's locker inquiring about Kaman, Carlisle walked by and deadpanned: "I thought Kaman played great tonight. And I was shocked that he didn't play more minutes. It should be noted for the record that he played 17 minutes tonight and averaged 20 here."

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