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Russell Westbrook to sit out vs. Hawks, will play vs. Thunder

Russell Westbrook spent 11 seasons with the Thunder, amassing more than 18,000 points, 5,700 rebounds, 6,800 assists and countless memorable moments in Oklahoma City.

As his first return game there as a visitor looms this week, the Houston Rockets are doing what they can to ensure he’ll play in his homecoming game. The Rockets visit the Thunder on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT), but before that they visit the Hawks on Wednesday (7:30 ET, League Pass).

Westbrook has been held out of one game in back-to-back sets this season, but that strategy will be slightly altered this week. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters Monday that Westbrook will miss the game vs. Atlanta to ensure he’ll play against Oklahoma City. Previously this season, the Rockets had held Westbrook out of the second game of back-to-backs (and Houston has gone 2-2 in those situations).

“Russell’s out that game (vs. Atlanta), but will play the OKC game.” D’Antoni said.

This season, Westbrook is averaging 24.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game for Houston. The Rockets are 24-11, have won seven of their last nine games and are 4 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

From 2008-19, Westbrook played for Oklahoma City, amassing 18,859 points, 5,760 rebounds, 6,897 assists and 1,442 steals. He ranks as the all-time leading scorer in Thunder history, while ranking third in rebounds, second in assists and third in steals. (The Thunder share their franchise history with the team’s Seattle era.)

Westbrook was the only remaining player from the Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma City after the franchise moved from Seattle in 2008, earned All-NBA Third Team recognition in 2018-19 after logging his third consecutive season averaging a triple-double (this time: 22.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 10.7 apg). While with the Thunder, Westbrook was the Kia NBA MVP in 2016-17.

He was also an eight-time All-Star, a two-time All-Star Game MVP, an eight-time All-NBA selection (First Team twice, Second Team five times, Third Team once), and won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA in 2012. He also led the league in assists in each of the past two seasons and is a two-time scoring champion.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.