Russell Westbrook Introduced at Thunder Home Game for First Time Since Injury
Russell Westbrook has been in the habit of making crowds roar for a few years now, but when Oklahoma City Thunder fans heard his name announced as a member of the starting lineup against the Phoenix Suns Nov. 3, the resultant din included a few more decibels than usual.
You can see (and hear) the introduction yourself right here:
Westbrook's return—at least at this early juncture—was something of a surprise. After undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus April 27, the point guard was supposed to be ready by the time the regular season rolled around.
But he needed another surgery Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch in his surgically repaired knee, a procedure that was supposed to push back his return date an additional few weeks, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.
So much for that estimate.
Claiming to be fully healthy, Westbrook could barely contain his excitement when he met with reporters before tipoff.
Appropriately, the crowd reciprocated that enthusiasm when OKC's second star bounded off the bench.
"And at guard, 6-3 from UCLA ... " And the place goes nuts. Never even heard his name. #SunsAtThunder— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) November 4, 2013
And as if Kevin Durant needed any more "good guy" points, he gave up his normal spot during introductions so his teammate could enjoy the extra support of his home fans.
Kevin Durant volunteered to be introduced first so that Russell Westbrook could be last. Crowd goes nuts for Westbrook.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 4, 2013
The importance of Westbrook's return can't be overstated.
The Thunder haven't shown the ability to succeed without both of their stars at full strength. And until Westbrook's injury during last year's playoffs, they'd never had to. Westbrook hadn't missed a game until after his fateful collision with Patrick Beverley in OKC's first-round victory over the Houston Rockets.
The Memphis Grizzlies mauled Durant during the second round, proving that Oklahoma City desperately needed Westbrook in the lineup to take defensive pressure off its primary scorer. By all early accounts, Russ is ready to do that again.
Somewhat overlooked despite posting a per-game differential that was more than a full point better than the Miami Heat's last year, per ESPN, the Thunder should comfortably retake their place as the favorite out West.
Now that Westbrook is back on the floor, expect things to stay very loud in Oklahoma City.
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