OKLAHOMA CITY — The person who will decide when it’s time for Russell Westbrook to return to game action appears to be … Russell Westbrook.
As Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan explained following Thunder practice Friday, “I think Russell knows his body better than anybody and I think as he goes through these situations daily, where he’s doing a little bit more and a little bit more, he’s always kind of feeling how his body feels after that, and sometimes you’re not going to get necessarily the answers right away.
“And so, when he’s ready to go and comfortable, then he’ll go, but I’m not worried about him being ready, whenever that time comes.”
Though listed out in the Thunder's game notes, Westbrook would appear to be quite close to returning as Oklahoma City embarks on a three-game road trip that begins at Phoenix tonight, followed by a Monday night date at Sacramento and a Wednesday night date at Golden State.
“He did some contact stuff today,” Donovan said.
The coach added that practice went a little longer than an hour and that much of it was non-contact, but that Westbrook participated in the contact portions of it.
“He’s doing more and more,” Donovan said.
Westbrook missed the first two games of the season, both Thunder losses, and the last five, four of which have been Thunder wins.
He has averaged 24.1 points, 8.9 assists and 8.3 rebounds in the seven games he’s played and the Thunder are 5-2 in those games, the five wins coming in succession.
Westbrook only missed five games, total, his last three seasons. Still, there’s no rush to bring him back, given OKC’s success in his absence.
The Thunder are coming off two home-court victories, by 17 points over Phoenix and by 25 over the New York Knicks.
• Abrines still ill: Reserve shooting guard Alex Abrines, who was ruled ill during the Thunder victory over the Knicks after playing almost 7 1/2 minutes in the first half, remains ill and missed Friday’s practice.
Donovan said Abrines is suffering from “flu-like” symptoms and will be traveling with the team to Phoenix, though it’s unclear if he’ll be well enough to play.
• Diallo on the difference: It might seem impossible that some players are better suited to the professional game than the college game, but Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo, asked for the difference between the defense he faces now against the defense he faced last season at Kentucky, made a pretty good case for why it might be that way for him.
“There’s much more space. If a guy goes under on you [on a screen], you can still figure out a way to get to the rim because guys have to guard their guys [in the NBA],” he said. “In college … they literally just wait there for you. A guy can just stand in there for his whole defensive possession, just stand in the paint.
“So, if you’re driving you’re going to drive right into him. The floor is just so cluttered.”
By rule, it cannot be cluttered in the same way in the NBA.
Though the league began allowing zone defenses in 2001, defensive three-second calls still bar defenders from simply camping out in the lane.
• Tip-ins: Jerami Grant began the season hitting 21.1 percent (4 of 19) of his 3-pointers, but has made of 11 of 24 since and is now shooting 34.9 percent (15 of 43) from distance … The Thunder have committed fewer turnovers than their opponent in 13 of 14 games … Though two of them haven’t played much, the top three Thunder defenders in terms of defensive rating — number of points allowed per 100 possessions of floor time — are Abdel Nader (86), Nerlens Noel (96) and Deonte Burton (98). Nader and Burton have played 37 minutes between them, Noel has played 196 … Steven Adams is averaging 15.2 points and 10.1 rebounds, 1.3 more points and 3.2 more rebounds than last season’s averages. He’s averaged 19 points in OKC’s last four games.