Russell Westbrook will undergo surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and no timetable has been set for his return, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced on Friday. Westbrook has never missed a game during his four seasons in the NBA, but now he is out indefinitely and the Thunder will be forced to cope without their most aggressive playmaker on the floor. Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti refused to put forth a timetable for Westbrook's return before the surgical procedure occurs.
Presti won't speculate on timetable to return until surgery takes place.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 26, 2013
Presti had this to say in the team's official press release:
"Our players' health is our first and foremost concern. The Thunder's medical team and several specialists we consulted with determined that Russell undergo a procedure to address the issue," said . "We have thoroughly discussed this with Russell. Despite being the competitor and teammate that he is, he respects and understands the decision and is committed to come back even stronger. Certainly Russell is a leader and core player for this team, but we are in the midst of the playoffs and I know other players are determined to step up and contribute. We have a resilient group of players who have always taken pride in playing as a team and that approach will continue."
The 24-year-old guard may be most irreplaceable player on OKC's roster. Kevin Durant has improved as a passer and creator this season, but Westbrook is often engine of the Thunder offense for large swaths of games. He pushes the pace, slices through the defense and forces help-side defenders to make decisions that get exploited with second and third passes by his teammates.
Westbrook took his game to a new level this season. He averaged 23.2 points on 43.8 percent shooting to go with 7.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds over 34.9 minutes per game in 82 contests. He was named an NBA All-Star for the third time in his career, and he posted a career-high Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 23.98.
Reggie Jackson has played well in a reserve role for the team, but he can't be expected to fill Westbrook's shoes. It's something he hasn't been asked to do much at all this season:
OKC's starting lineup with Reggie Jackson in place of Westbrook has played 19 minutes total together this season.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 26, 2013
The Thunder hold a 2-0 series lead on the Houston Rockets in the opening round of the playoffs, but if Westbrook misses several weeks, or if he can't play the rest of the postseason, it would be a huge blow to OKC's chances.