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Though Westbrook is now healthy after a strained quad, he says he didn’t want to play at all without further action on social justice.Russell Westbrook didn’t want to play without social justice action — Rockets Wire
After weeks of dealing with a strained right quad, All-Star guard Russell Westbrook is finally healthy and ready to return to the Houston Rockets for Saturday’s Game 5 of their playoff series versus Oklahoma City.
But without the NBA’s latest actions related to social justice, he says he wouldn’t be on the court at all — even when healthy.
“I’m excited to play. But I’m more excited that we’re playing for a cause, that we’re in agreeance to make sure that there’s action,” said the 31-year-old Westbrook, who spoke at Friday’s team practice.
It was the first media availability for the former MVP and nine-time NBA All-Star since an Aug. 12 MRI revealed his quad strain. “If there wasn’t any agreement, there’s no action moving towards some of the things that we talked about as players… me personally, I wouldn’t be playing,” he said.
Earlier Friday, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) jointly issued a statement with action items to be taken to further support social justice and racial equality. One of those — converting arenas to voting sites for the 2020 U.S. presidential election — has already been confirmed by the Rockets to take place in Houston.
Joint NBA and NBPA statement: pic.twitter.com/EFp6fG9oZs
— NBA (@NBA) August 28, 2020
Following the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man in Wisconsin, NBA players effectively went on strike Wednesday in a bid to push the league and its owners to further assist them on issues related to social justice. As Westbrook sees things, it clearly worked.
“I think we all needed a pause,” Westbrook said Friday. “Emotionally, physically, mentally. I think the pause was for a greater cause, for all the social issues in our world today. Based on recent police killings and shootings, it allowed us to use our platform.”
Westbrook noted that the hiatus quickly extended to other U.S. professional sports leagues including the WNBA, MLB, and NHL.
“Once the NBA stopped, everything else [in sports] stopped,” Westbrook said. “Our voices were heard. That shows the power. … We see the impact, we see the change that is happening.”
Russell Westbrook on the NBA’s hiatus:
“I think we all needed a pause. Emotionally, physically, mentally. I think the pause was for a greater cause, for all the social issues in our world today. Based on recent police killings and shootings, it allowed us to use our platform.”
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) August 28, 2020
No NBA playoff games were held on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and the initial postponed games from the first day (including Game 5 of the first-round series between the Rockets and Thunder) will finally be played on Saturday. That game will serve as Westbrook’s 2020 playoff debut.
But Westbrook wasn’t in the mood to talk much basketball on Friday. He wanted to keep the focus of his discussion to the bigger issues at hand, as well as the progress that he believes is being made.
“It’s an unbelievable blessing,” Westbrook said of this week’s protest events. “God has put me in this position for a reason. Not just to play basketball, but to use my platform to help other people.”
#KHOU11 @russwest44 talks about the protest this week by #NBA players. “It’s an unbelievable blessing. God has put me in this position for a reason. Not just to play basketball but to use my platform to help other people.” pic.twitter.com/vH80jLQxU2
— Matt Musil (@KHOUSportsMatt) August 28, 2020
Westbrook became personally involved with the “Black Lives Matter” movement after the death of George Floyd in late May, even speaking in person at a protest near his hometown of Los Angeles. With the movement on the minds of NBA players more than ever after the Blake shooting, Westbrook says he’s determined to use his immense platform to continue pushing for change in the weeks and months ahead.
“I watched the video,” Westbrook said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s something you can’t explain, and it’s something that’s just not right. … It hits home for many reasons. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. I have family and friends that have been subject to police brutality. I’ve been privy to it all. … I wanted to find a way to help and make change.”
“What does your legacy mean? Is it just about basketball? I don’t think mine is about basketball. I believe mine is about giving back.” @russwest44 discusses using his platform to affect social change. pic.twitter.com/NbAttx1ISJ
— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 28, 2020
Even above his extremely long list of NBA accomplishments, that change is what Westbrook wants to be most remembered for.
“I’ve always thought about legacy,” Westbrook said. “What does your legacy mean? Is it just about basketball? I don’t think mine is about basketball. I believe mine is about giving back, and impacting and inspiring, and finding ways to be able to do what’s right.”
“Our Black communities have been hurting for many years,” he said. “I feel like it’s my duty to make sure that our Black people and underserved communities are heard, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that happens. I’m making sure that I’m part of history, in a positive way. Whether it’s five years, 10 years, 20 years down the line, I can look back and say ‘I was a part of that. I put my best foot forward.’”
The complete video of Westbrook’s poignant commentary before Friday’s Rockets practice can be viewed below.
Per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Westbrook could join the Rockets on the court for the first time in the 2020 NBA playoffs.Report: Rockets upgrade Russell Westbrook to questionable for Game 5 — Rockets Wire
n the entire history of the NBA playoffs, best-of-seven series that are tied, 2-2, are won more than 80% of the time by the Game 5 winner.
Those are the stakes for Wednesday’s Game 5 between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. As a result, it’s an “all hands on deck” scenario for both teams — and for the Rockets, that could include injured All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, who has yet to play in the series.https://widgets.thescore.com/embeds/379ad259-7bec-478d-9788-a28695088c55/DE4B63807AD5C1FEB14D39CE5E54D146
Only hours before tipoff and barely over an hour after the 10 a.m. Central injury report listed Westbrook as out, the Rockets are upgrading him to questionable, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Rockets guard Russell Westbrook will be upgraded to questionable to play in Game 5 vs. OKC tonight. He had been out with a strained quadriceps muscle.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) August 26, 2020
Westbrook has yet to play in the 2020 playoffs due to a right quad strain. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Westbrook will test his quad on the court before the game before making a gametime decision.
While unusual, the gameday upgrade isn’t unprecedented. For example, the Thunder listed Lu Dort as out a day before Game 2, only to upgrade his status on the morning of the game. Dort did play in that game.
Thunder guard Luguentz Dort upgraded from out to questionable. No changes with the Rockets. Westbrook, Mbah a Moute are out. https://t.co/31BPeld2K6
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) August 20, 2020
The NBA’s automated cameras at the Disney World “bubble” captured Westbrook going through a series of drills at Houston’s Sunday practice, and he appeared to have minimal (if any) restrictions.
Russell Westbrook (right quad strain) remains listed as out for Game 4, but he has clearly increased his workload in recent days, as Mike D’Antoni had indicated. Here’s footage from today’s #Rockets practice. #OneMission pic.twitter.com/ht0qb65jQB
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) August 23, 2020
Not going to rule anything out or anything in. We’ll see. …
As soon as they [the medical staff] tell me that he can go and he feels like he can go, he’ll go. … He’ll work out today and get on the court and see how he feels, and they’ll make a determination. It’s close. They’ll make a good call, and he’ll do the same.
Obviously, how Westbrook moves and looks at practice today and how he feels after and again tomorrow will go a long way toward answering if, when he can return and cannot be known yet. https://t.co/jaz2SK39Xi
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) August 25, 2020
Westbrook missed two seeding games with a right quad injury before playing 28 minutes versus San Antonio on Tuesday, Aug. 11. He was again ruled out the next day with an injury to that quad, and he hasn’t played since. Wednesday’s Game 5 would be 15 days since his last game.
Prior to Saturday’s Game 3, D’Antoni had conceded that Houston’s 2-0 edge in the series allowed them to be more cautious with Westbrook’s timetable. With the series now tied, 2-2, that may no longer be the case.
Now 31 years old, Westbrook has averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists in 35.9 minutes per game during a brilliant debut season in Houston. A nine-time NBA All-Star and the 2017 MVP, Westbrook shot a career-high 47.2% in the regular season with the Rockets — whose small-ball approach opened up more opportunities to attack the rim. He is the team’s No. 2 scorer, trailing only MVP finalist James Harden.
Game 5 between the Rockets and Thunder tips off at 5:30 p.m. Central on Wednesday, with a national broadcast on TNT and a regional version (with Houston announcers) on AT&T SportsNet Southwest.
Houston’s Russell Westbrook is expected to test his strained quadriceps on the court prior to Game 5 vs. Oklahoma City today and make a gametime decision on returning, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020