Guard Russell Westbrook will sit out the Houston Rockets’ preseason opener against the Shanghai Sharks on Monday night and could miss more games.
The Rockets are taking a cautious approach during the preseason with Westbrook, who underwent arthroscopic surgery in the spring to clean up his right knee.
“He’s going to work into it,” coach Mike D’Antoni said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “We don’t know exactly how many games it will take him. He hasn’t played all summer. He’s been rehabbing. We’re going to get a bunch of practices underneath his belt before he goes on the floor. He’s already had two good practices. He’ll practice when we’re in Hawai’i, and then we’ll see. Mostly it’s when he feels ready, and then he’ll play.”
The Rockets face the Clippers in Honolulu on Thursday. They play the Raptors on Oct. 8 and 10 in Tokyo, and general manager Daryl Morey said the plan was for Westbrook to play in those games.
“That could change,” D’Antoni said, according to the newspaper. “It could be earlier; it could be later. It just depends on how he feels and his timing. He wants to make sure when he does play, he’s ready to go.”
Westbrook, 30, the perennial All-Star the Rockets acquired in a July blockbuster trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has recently been cleared for live 5-on-5 action. He has participated in scrimmages at the Rockets’ voluntary minicamp in Las Vegas and at their training camp over the weekend.
“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Westbrook said of his health during Friday’s media day. “I’ll be ready to go on opening night.”
Westbrook’s knee issues originated in 2013 when then-Rockets guard Patrick Beverley ran into him during the first round of the playoffs. Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus and underwent surgery for a full repair. He went almost five years without any surgeries on his knee before having another scope last September that caused him to miss all of training camp and the first two games of the regular season.
Westbrook averaged a triple-double (22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and a league-leading 10.7 assists) for the third consecutive season in his final campaign for the Thunder, who opted to trade the longtime face of their franchise after Paul George’s request to be dealt to the LA Clippers pushed Oklahoma City into a rebuilding phase.
Westbrook wanted to be traded to Houston to reunite with longtime friend and former Thunder teammate James Harden, believing that joining the Rockets maximized his chances of winning a championship.