OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook played only 10 minutes Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, his first preseason performance.
The reigning MVP missed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s exhibition opener with a left knee injury. He spent the first couple of weeks recovering from platelet-rich plasma injections he received shortly before the season began.
He didn’t see time outside the first quarter Friday, leading breaks, darting dishes, and flashing Westbrookian finishes while racking up nine points and four assists. That likely won’t be the plan Sunday when the Thunder take on Melbourne United, a team from Australia’s NBL which has come all the way to Oklahoma for a friendly.
“Right now, we are in a position to probably do that, stretch [Westbrook's minutes] out a little bit more,” coach Billy Donovan said after Saturday’s practice. “Probably tomorrow morning, get with him and Carmelo [Anthony] and Paul [George], see where those guys are at physically. But the feeling going into tomorrow would be to open up more minutes for them to play maybe even some in the third quarter with all those guys.”
Anthony has played regular minutes for the first halves of both Thunder preseason games so far. He has not played in a second half. George has dipped into the early third quarter for extra minutes during each of the exhibitions.
• No expectations: Westbrook didn’t mince any words when asked what he was expecting from Melbourne United on Sunday.
“I ain’t expecting [expletive],” he said, jumping into a defense of his teammate, Steven Adams, who is from New Zealand, a notorious rival of Australia. “I’m rolling with Stevo, though. I’m with Stevo. I’m with New Zealand, team New Zealand, just so you know.”
• Singling out: Carmelo Anthony has no qualms about the NBA’s latest change, which will adjust the All-Star Game’s format, electing captains to choose pre-voted-on All-Stars to form the two teams as if the NBA's best are playing pick-up.
He just doesn’t want this to turn into MLB, which used to award home-field advantage in the World Series to whichever league won its All-Star Game.
“They trying, they trying like baseball,” Anthony said when asked about the new model. “As long as they don’t put in, whoever wins gets home court. One step at a time.”
• Injuries: Shooting guard Alex Abrines and power forward Patrick Patterson are both out for Sunday’s game, Donovan said.
Abrines is still recovering from a mild left knee strain. He is able to run and shoot but is not yet cleared for game play. Patterson is recovering from arthroscopic surgery he underwent on his left knee in early August.
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as a host of the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.