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Questions over Russell Westbrook’s Game 5 absence

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Westbrook’s injury status was changed just for him to be ruled out a few hours later.

Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Four Photo by Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Houston Rockets will be without Russell Westbrook yet again for Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

The report that Westbrook will be out for the fifth game of the series comes as a bit (emphasis on bit) of a surprise after head coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters on Tuesday that Westbrook was listed as day-to-day. Westbrook’s new status was the first time he was upgraded since after the Rockets played the San Antonio Spurs on Aug. 11.

According to D’Antoni, Westbrook’s return is not in his or even Westbrook’s hands, but in the hands of their medical staff.

So, it begs the question: if the Rockets go down 3-2 in the series, does that mean it still won’t be enough for Westbrook to see the court? And if that’s indeed the case, exactly how deep does this injury run? This could mean the possibility of still limiting Westbrook’s minutes and type of play beyond even that of the first round.

Or — or — are the Rockets doing a class bait-and-switch tactic? Maybe they’re trying to lull the Thunder into some sort of false confidence and hit them with the fact that Westbrook has returned right before game time.

There’s also the more serious question of maybe Westbrook’s injury is actually more serious than we thought. Never mind the possibility of him playing in limited role, but maybe we won’t see him at all this postseason?

D’Antoni had this to say on Tuesday:

“As soon as they tell me he can go and he feels like he can then he’ll go,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll work out today, he’ll get on the court and see how he feels and they’ll make a determination. It’s close. We want to be a little careful. At the same time, we understand the urgency. They’ll make a good call on him and he’ll do the same.”

The fact that D’Antoni is saying that he’s leaving it up to medical personnel could mean that he’s not comfortable enough with Westbrook’s injury to allow himself or for Westbrook to make that call. We’ve before seen players get updated on the injury charts just to never see the court. Not trying to put those negative thoughts on Westbrook’s injury, but there’s a very real chance that the staff could be humoring Westbrook because he’s so antsy to get back out there.

There may be a lot of optimistic words surrounding Westbrook’s status, but everyone is leaving it just vague enough for there to be plenty of doubt.