The Houston Rockets begin their postseason Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they'll be down an All-Star for at least the opener. Russell Westbrook, who had an MRI that revealed a strained right quad, is reportedly expected to miss the first few playoff games for the Houston Rockets, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. Fortunately, Westbrook had another MRI on Tuesday, and according to Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, "It's getting a lot better, good news. It's healing. We just have to wait and see. Can't rule anything out, but don't rule anything in."
Westbrook missed the team's final two seeding games as a result of the injury, and losing him in the postseason isn't ideal for Houston. However, the Rockets do at least have a deep backcourt, with bubble standouts Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore, and they got Eric Gordon back on Wednesday after a two-week absence following a sprained ankle, and of course, former MVP James Harden.
Still, the Rockets would obviously prefer to have their other former MVP at full strength in the postseason. Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Westbrook has averaged 30.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game for the Rockets. He has been the primary beneficiary of Houston's decision to abandon the center position entirely, as surrounding him with four shooters has covered his deficiencies in that arena quite well and opened up the lane for him as a driver.
Houston will be facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, which will be an emotional series for Westbrook, who spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Oklahoma City, as well as for Chris Paul, who was traded to the Thunder by Houston in exchange for Westbrook.
The Rockets are going to need Westbrook if they plan to make a serious run at the championship. For all of his gifts, Harden can't carry the entire ball-handling load for four consecutive rounds. Westbrook is one of the most important players of the postseason, so hopefully, he can return to full strength early in the first round.