Russell Westbrook opened up in Wednesday’s Houston Rockets media session as he got integrated back into team activities following his COVID-19 quarantine.
Wearing one of the social justice T-shirts co-created by his brand – Honor the Gift – and the NBPA – Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook spoke with the media on Wednesday for the first time since arriving in the Orlando bubble earlier this week after being quarantined. He recently tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m just thankful and blessed just to be healthier and to be able to go out and compete again,” a masked Westbrook said. “I’ve just been at home, quarantining. Trying to be productive. Obviously not able to get on the basketball floor but, finding ways to do as much conditioning as I could probably do,” he said.
On if he’s worried about not being in shape Westbrook said: “We’ll see once I get out there (on the court) but that’s the last thing I worried about honestly because after quarantine I was in pretty good shape so I should be alright.”
Westbrook spoke before the Rockets’ morning practice, after practice coach Mike D’Antoni was eager to get started as he’s nearly back to a fully healthy team.
“I think Russell looks good. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll work him in little by little but it’s an exciting day to get it going totally,” D’Antoni said. “He’s almost ready to go. Russell stays in shape. He stays ready to go. I’d say he’ll do at least 80 percent of practice.”
With Russell Westbrook’s arrival, the Rockets are almost at full strength. They are still waiting for the arrival of Luc Mbah a Moute in Orlando.
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Among the items Westbrook discussed were his symptoms when he tested positive, feelings on joining the team in the Bubble, and his social justice message apparel.
On getting back to basketball:
“Man I’m very eager, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. Just being home and being by myself for such a long period of time away from my family and my teammates and the organization… I’m definitely excited to get back on the floor and get things rolling.”
On playing in Friday’s scrimmage vs. the Raptors:
“I don’t have a feel if I can make a layup at this point,” Westbrook said laughing. “I gotta start there first. Once I start there then I’ll work my way from there.”
On how NBA owners can support the BLM movement:
“I believe the owners play a huge part. Obviously owning the teams, knowing our League is a predominantly Black League it’s important our owners No. 1, understand that all the social injustice that’s going on in our society, how it impacts each one of our communities where we grew up,” Westbrook said.
“It’s important for them to understand how meaningful it is to be able to show their support, not just for our team, but for the Black communities because I believe it goes a long way for players like myself and in this League to know that you have owners and people that you work for, that your play for on your side and understand how important it is to represent the Black community.”
On the Houston Rockets’ effectiveness in the Bubble:
“It will be very vital for us to bond and stay close-knit because times like this, it only allows you to come closer or grow apart, and I think that we’re in such a good place – from what I’ve heard from not being here – my job is just to come in and fit along with everything.”
On the coronavirus and his symptoms:
“I was just at home, the only thing I probably had was like a stuffy nose and that was it,” Russell Westbrook said of his symptoms.
“I’m not a doctor, nor a specialist but I do know that it is definitely something to take very seriously, to understand that wearing a mask can be (the difference) between life and death honestly.
“Obviously I’m a name that people know and see and it pops up on the screen. But people are dying from this virus each and every day and it’s something that we all need to take very, very seriously because some of our loved ones or people that’s close to us could lose their lives. It’s something that I keep saying to my family, my friends, my close group of people to take it very seriously.”
On his social brand apparel:
“The league wanted to do something and the NBPA wanted to do something special for our players whether it was through shirts or any other way,” Westbrook said.” And obviously I’m lucky enough to have my own brand and I wanted to be able to show my respect and gratitude to the families on the front of the shirt. There are obviously names that are not on it – we couldn’t put every single name on it – but on the back, I wanted to be able to give our guys in the league a message that they weren’t allowed to put on their jersey; some of the messages that they did want that I knew about internally and I just wanted to give guys another way to speak and use their voice without actually talking.
“It’s something that I am personally most proud of that I’ve done with my brand,” he continued. “I wanted to find ways to continue to make sure our voices are heard and find ways to make a change and get justice for these people on the front of these shirts and names that are not on here as well.”
On how long it will take him to get to 100 percent:
“I don’t know. I’ll take one day at a time, that’s all I can do. Just be thankful and blessed I can go back out on the floor and compete. I’ll take one day at a time and when I”m back to 100 percent, you’ll know.”
Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets open the eight-game seeding schedule Friday, July 31st, against in-state rival the Dallas Mavericks.