Russell Westbrook Returns to Thunder Practice for First Time Since Knee Surgery

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 24:  Russell Westbrook
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook returned to practice for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in early October.

Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman provided the update, which is welcomed news for a Thunder squad hoping to make waves in the NBA's Western Conference once again.   

Westbrook was a limited participant in practice, working with his teammates as they prepare for their regular-season opener against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 30:

“There were bits and pieces where Russell participated in practice, so that was good,” coach Scott Brooks said. “It was good to get everybody out there, working together.”

In recent weeks, Westbrook has been seen on the court during the portion of practice open to the media, going through light workouts with the Thunder training staff.

Westbrook missing time due to injury is a rarity. In an era where resting players has become the norm, he didn't miss a regular-season game in the first five years of his career.

The point guard originally injured his right knee during the first round of last season's playoffs against the Houston Rockets. The Thunder would go on to lose in the conference semifinals to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Westbrook wasn't able to get back to full strength after the first surgery, forcing him to go through the second procedure to eliminate swelling.

Although the Thunder would have liked to have Westbrook available from the outset of the preseason, getting him back to full strength was far more important. The team doesn't want to risk his long-term health with a more significant setback.

Last season, Westbrook averaged 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the field, leading the Thunder alongside superstar Kevin Durant to the No. 1 seed in the conference. He did so while playing nearly 35 minutes per game.

It will probably take some time before he's back at that level, both in terms of production and usage, as Oklahoma City works him back into the fold. 

The team will hope Westbrook is all the way back within a couple months, showing no signs of further knee problems. That would mean he'd be ready to take his game back to an elite level for the second half of the season and a potential playoff run.

That said, the focus right now is seeing how his body responds after practicing, which will determine when he's ready for game action.