Mike D'Antoni: 'Nobody Knows' When Russell Westbrook Will Return from Injury

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2020

Houston Rockets' Russell Westbrook dribbles against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets didn't need Russell Westbrook during Tuesday's 123-108 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their first-round series, but they will surely need him at some point in the playoffs.

On Wednesday, Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni didn't offer many specifics when it comes to a timeline for Westbrook's recovery from a strained right quadricep. 

"I don't know how long it's going to take, and if it's going to take a little bit," he said, per Mark Medina of USA Today. "He's been working hard and is feeling better everyday. The images are looking better, but I think it's too early to say how many days he's out. Nobody knows."

Medina noted Westbrook underwent an MRI on Tuesday, while D'Antoni said the point guard "feels a lot better" following conditioning drills and work on a stationary bike.

As expected, James Harden did much of the heavy lifting without his All-Star teammate in Game 1, finishing with 37 points and 11 rebounds while hitting six three-pointers. He can initiate the offense as a ball-handler, and Houston can also turn to Austin Rivers at point guard if needed.

Still, Westbrook is a former league MVP, eight-time All-NBA selection, two-time scoring champion and two-time assist champion who can take over a game at a moment's notice.

He gives the Rockets an insurance policy if Harden, who dominates so much of the offense in isolation sets and pick-and-roll plays, is having a bad game or even a poor series. He averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season, his first in Houston after an extended career with the Thunder.

Westbrook was a vocal leader from the sidelines during the Rockets' Game 1 win over his former team, spearheading the cheers and talking with teammates when they came to the bench.

It appears he will have to play a similar role in Thursday's Game 2.