Russell Westbrook returning from facial fracture Wednesday
He's not human.
Westbrook underwent surgery to repair a fractured right zygomatic arch on Saturday, an injury that occurred when teammate Andre Roberson hit him with a Shining Wizard on Friday. The incident quite literally left a dent in Westbrook's face.
His reaction to the injury, though, seemed to err on the side of understatement. "When you feel your face and it feels deformed," he said, "it's definitely a little different."
Westbrook will somehow return having missed just a single game. He'll do so wearing a protective mask, which could be all kinds of fun given Westbrook's personality, demeanor and generally garish fashion choices.
A prompt return for Westbrook is great news for the Thunder, who are playing without reigning MVP Kevin Durant and are in the thick of a race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Thanks in large part to Westbrook's MVP-level play, the Thunder have hung tough in February, going 9-3 overall. That earned head coach Scott Brooks Coach of the Month honors in the West and will likely earn Westbrook the Player of the Month nod.
Westbrook recorded his third consecutive triple-double in the game in which he was injured, capping a month that saw him become just the second player in league history to average 30-9-10 over a calendar month, joining Oscar Robertson. His season averages of 26.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.1 assists would put him in rarefied air, too, with only Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James having averaged such gaudy numbers over an entire season.
Most importantly, the Thunder have risen to eighth in the West after losing Westbrook and Durant for appreciable chunks of the season. The team is 10-8 when Westbrook plays without Durant and they've been 8.8 points per-100 possessions better when Westbrook's on the floor.
The margin for error is thin in OKC, where they hold just a one-game lead on the New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot, with the Phoenix Suns two-and-a-half back. If the Thunder want to get greedy, they're only three-and-a-half games back of the San Antonio Spurs for the seventh seed, which would allow them to avoid the Golden State Warriors in the first round.