For the first time this season, with no playoff position to play for, but the playoffs to get ready for, the Oklahoma City Thunder will play a game without MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
It just so happens that that rest day comes with the Thunder in Minneapolis to play the Wolves tonight at Target Center.
Oh, well. There is still the new logo reveal to look forward to.
The Thunder is set to play Houston in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. With that in mind, coach Billy Donovan said Westbrook, Taj Gibson, Andre Roberson and Doug McDermott will all miss tonight’s game. Roberson and McDermott are dealing with knee soreness.
Alex Abrines, who missed the last three games with a left knee sprain, will return for the Thunder tonight.
Two days ago Westbrook scored 50 points with 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a victory over Denver.. It was Westbrook’s 42nd triple-double of the season, most in NBA history. It was also his third 50-point triple-double of the season, also a league record.
But, with a playoff matchup looming with Houston, Westbrook agreed that now was a good day to take some time off. A decision on his availability for the Thunder’s regular-season finale tomorrow is yet to be made.
“At the end of the day, it’s his decision of how he feels,’’ Donovan said. “Ultimately he’s the one who’s going to make that decision. We’ll certainly give him some input, in terms of resting. But I always feel this: As a player you have a certain rhythm you get into, the way you’re playing. [Players] go six months with a pretty consistent rhythm. The last thing you want to do as a coach is to have them feel like they need to do something and maybe they’re not 100 percent on board with, because it might break the way they’re playing. I want him to take ownership of it. At the end of the day, he was the one who really felt like this would be a good day.’’
Because he is not playing tonight, Westbrook was not available to be interviewed after the Thunder morning shootaround.
“He wants to play,’’ Donovan said. “But he understands the big picture. He knows there is something bigger out there. I think taking this time is important.’’
--So, you can take Westbrook’s name off the list of players who have played in every game this season. As of this minute, there are six players who have played in every game for their team.
Westbrook will break that streak tonight, leaving five – Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins of the Wolves, Indiana’s Jeff Teague and Washington’s Marcin Gortat. The Wolves have had at least one player play in every game the past three seasons. Wiggins did it in his rookie season and Towns did it last year.
--Don’t forget, tonight is the official unveiling of the team’s new logo.