‘Westbrook’s absence will hurt Rockets’

After Russell Westbrook tested positive for coronavirus, Gametime analyst Kevin McHale said the All-Star guard’s absence while in quarantine will hurt the Houston Rockets.

Westbrook released a statement on social media on Monday confirming he is in quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus.

On NBA TV’s Gametime, McHale – a three-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and a former coach of the Rockets – said although he expects Westbrook to be back at 100 per cent when the NBA season restarts on July 30, the former MVP’s absence from the team’s practices until he is cleared to enter the Orlando campus is damaging for Houston.

“Russell is a world-class athlete and he has got a great motor, too. He will be ready to play (once cleared to join the team).

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“But there is a rhythm you have to have as a player. You have to have a rhythm so you can play minutes and not hurt yourself and rhythm with your team-mates. This really hurts.

“You are talking about Russ being away from his team-mates for seven to 14 days. [The season ahead] is such a short, condensed period. You need everyone together. I think the teams that get some rhythm going and get that good feeling going are going to be the teams that do really well. Russell not being there [for the team’s preparations over the next week or so] is going to hurt the Rockets.”

It is unclear when Westbrook will arrive. As recently as Sunday, the Rockets believed that Westbrook, NBA scoring leader James Harden and newly re-acquired Luc Mbah a Moute – none of the three travelled with the team to Walt Disney World near Orlando last week – would be with the team in the next few days.

In Westbrook’s case, that now seems most unlikely.

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The arrival dates for Harden and Mbah a Moute are murky as well. Neither player has revealed why they aren’t at Disney, and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni would only say that ”these are things that people are dealing with.”

D’Antoni said Westbrook had taken part in individual workouts when they were permitted back in Houston, but declined to elaborate further on the guard’s condition. He also isn’t sure when the missing Rockets will arrive.

”I did have one year of pre-med,” D’Antoni said. ”But I don’t know when it’s going to happen. As soon as protocols get out of the way… they are all anxious to get here and they are doing what they need to do to stay in shape.

”This is not going to set us back. We’re not going to let it set us back, and we’re going to be ready to roll here in the next two, three weeks.”

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Westbrook is averaging 27.5 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game for the Rockets this season. Houston have clinched a playoff spot and resume their season with the first of eight seeding games on July 31 against Dallas.

”I’m praying for his safety and the same for his family,” Phoenix guard Devin Booker said. ”Hopefully he can get healthy and get down here as soon as possible.”

Inside the NBA bubble there was optimism that the rules established by the league and the players will work – even though some Disney parks reopened to visitors over the weekend and the MLS restart, also at the campus, has seen two teams leave after a spate of positive tests.

”It’s a condition, a virus, that does not discriminate,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. ”And we’re trying to do everything we can to keep our guys safe.”


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”Our protocols are unbelievable,” said Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, one of the players who helped craft the restart rules. ”I think our protocols and our health and safety measures have been top-notch. I think this thing will work perfectly.

“We are doing everything that we can possibly do to make sure that we are healthy, we are safe and we are in an environment where we can be successful and do our jobs at a high level.”

Those protocols that Lowry spoke of were designed to be taken seriously, and at least two players inside the NBA bubble have already paid a steep price for violating quarantine upon their teams’ respective arrivals last week.

Sacramento’s Richaun Holmes revealed Monday that he ”briefly and accidentally” crossed the NBA campus line to pick up a food delivery. Under the NBA’s rules of the restart, he now has to spend 10 days in quarantine.

Sacramento Kings forward Richaun Holmes pictured during warm-ups
Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes pictured during team warm-ups

Holmes said he had eight days left in quarantine. ”I apologise for my actions and look forward to rejoining my team-mates for our playoff push,” Holmes wrote.

Monday’s developments came on a day where more than 12,000 new cases were confirmed in Florida, now perhaps the hottest of virus hotspots in the US. And officials in Houston also called for that city to lock back down as area hospitals strain to accommodate patients sick with coronavirus.

Westbrook also offered a word of caution.

”Please take this virus seriously,” Westbrook wrote. ”Be safe. Mask up!”

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