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Westbrook, Patterson, Abrines to miss preseason opener

Russell Westbrook, left, and Alex Abrines sat out Sunday's Blue and White Scrimmage in Edmond. They, along with teammate Patrick Patterson, are out for the Thunder's preseason opener against the Rockets Tuesday in Tulsa. [PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Russell Westbrook, left, and Alex Abrines sat out Sunday's Blue and White Scrimmage in Edmond. They, along with teammate Patrick Patterson, are out for the Thunder's preseason opener against the Rockets Tuesday in Tulsa. [PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OKLAHOMAN]

The Thunder will open the preseason on Tuesday without Russell Westbrook.

But the point guard — who had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee two weeks ago — is working his way back to the court.

On Monday, Westbrook went through contact portions of practice for the first time, Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. And though he won't play against the Rockets in Tuesday's game in Tulsa, Westbrook was sharp in his first full-contact practice of the preseason.

When he spoke to reporters after Monday's practice, Donovan hadn't yet gotten an evaluation from the medical staff on Westbrook's performance.

“But he looked fine out there,” Donovan said. “There was no ill effects from anything. We got up and down and worked in the half-court, and he was there for every bit of it.”

Still, Westbrook will sit on Tuesday. And he'll have company. Forward Patrick Patterson and guard Alex Abrines also will miss the Houston game, Donovan said.

Patterson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August. Abrines has a left knee strain that held him out of Sunday's Blue and White Scrimmage.

It's “difficult to put a time frame” on Patterson and Abrines returning, Donovan said, but “it's not something we think is long term.”

The outcome of Tuesday's game ultimately doesn't mean much. But the absence Westbrook, Patterson and Abrines will impact what the Thunder can learn from it.

There still are questions about how Donovan will handle his rotations, how he'll stagger Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder probably will have to “wait to figure some of those things out” when the rotation is at full strength, Donovan said.

On Tuesday, Donovan said, he'll play George and Anthony in the first half and then evaluate what to do in the second half based on their halftime feedback. He'll make bigger rotation decisions once his injured trio — including the reigning MVP — gets back on the court.

“For Russell, it's just a slow progression,” Donovan said. “There's no reason just to throw him back in so quickly, but he's doing more and more, and he did everything today at practice.”

Staff shifts

The Thunder on Monday officially announced the hiring of Rob Hennigan, the team's former assistant general manager.

Hennigan's new title is “vice president of insight and foresight,” a role in which he'll “oversee key functions that include Strategic Planning, Data Science & Solutions and Information Management & Counsel.” Hennigan spent the past five seasons as the general manager of the Orlando Magic. He was fired from that position in April.

In addition, the Thunder promoted Will Dawkins and changed his title from director of college and player personnel to “vice president of identification and intelligence.” He'll oversee Oklahoma City's amateur evaluation and oversee the pro evaluation function.

In a statement, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Dawkins “has proven to be a true, organic, rising talent within our organization.”

Quotable

“It's a family city. It's a family feeling. I grew up in South Carolina. It's the same way. A person may not know you, but they drive by you in a car, they're still gonna blow their horn at you. They're still gonna speak. It's the same feeling I get here, so I feel like being at home.” — Thunder guard Raymond Felton on what he called OKC's “country atmosphere.”

Brett Dawson

Brett Dawson is in his second year covering the Thunder at The Oklahoman. He joined the paper in September of 2016 after a year covering the Pelicans at The Advocate in New Orleans. Prior to covering the NBA, Dawson spent his career covering... Read more ›

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