Another All-Star point guard suffers a knee injury in the first round of the playoffs and another Chicagoan is in the middle of the story.
Not Derrick Rose, of course, since his own devastating ACL tear occurred almost a year ago.
But his close friend and offseason training partner, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, will have to undergo surgery to repair his right meniscus after being injured in the Thunder’s win over Houston in the first-round of their Western Conference playoff series Wednesday night.
The injury occurred when Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley lunged for a steal as the Westbrook was calling for a timeout.
Beverley is a product of the West Side’s Marshall High School before embarking on a basketball odyssey that included a stint at the University of Arkansas and after being selected in the second round by Miami following his sophomore campaign, years playing overseas in the Ukraine, Greece and Russia before becoming a Rockets midseason acquisition.
The 6-foot-2, high-energy Chicago native was a participant in the Bulls minicamp last July prior to the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been familiar with Beverley since before I even moved to Chicago, even before his legendary senior season — he scored in the neighborhood of 40 points per game and led Marshall, the alma mater of “Hoop Dreams” co-subject Arthur Agee, downstate — back when he was a mid-major prospect.
That said, Beverley’s game has always been relentless and like the Westbrook play, he takes things to the referee’s whistle, on both ends of the floor, which is the reason that he’s made his improbable rise from overseas anonymity to starting for Houston — it shouldn’t be overlooked that he had 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, as well as picking up the slack for Jeremy Lin, who was injured and didn’t play in the second half — in the postseason.
“I saw the play and as a friend on Russ, of course it’s a disappointing play, to see him get hurt on something like that. But when I take myself out of the equation as a friend, it’s a basketball play. Patrick Beverley didn’t do it to hurt him, at least I don’t think so and from what I’ve heard about the guy, he plays hard all the time,” said Bulls center Nazr Mohammed, a Chicago native himself. “Some guys do the fake timeout. I don’t think Russ was going to do the fake timeout on that one, but it’s messed up for both of them. It’s messed up that he injured a guy on that play and it’s messed up for Russ to get injured on a play like that.”
“I don’t know [Beverley], but you always know of a guy when they come out of the city, too,” he continued. “I texted him earlier, he texted me back. It’s sad for a guy like him. He’s never missed a game in his life and we all know how tough and how passionate he is. It’s sad to see a guy like that go down at this time of the year. It’s the sad part about games, but it is what it is.”
[CSN HOUSTON: Tough to see Westbrook hurt]
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau chimed in: “I didn’t see it but I hate to see a guy like that get hurt. He’s been an extremely durable player obviously through high school, college and the pros without having an injury. He’s a great kid and player. I hate to see it.”
Obviously, the repercussions of losing of the durable Westbrook, who hadn’t missed a game dating back to his high school days, for any period of time — a meniscus injury is considered to be relatively short-term, as players, such as Lakers forward Metta World Peace, have recovered from surgery in minimal time, making it possible that the Thunder could get the athletic freak back later in the playoffs — will be tough on Oklahoma City and changes the complexion of the West’s playoffs.
That doesn’t justify that backlash against Beverley — who’s dealt with far tougher situations in his life, from growing up on the West Side to the challenges of his career — a player who isn’t dirty, but competes in the same fashion, whether it’s a summer pro-am game back in Chicago or a nationally-televised game in the postseason.
In fact, if Westbrook, known for pushing it to the limit as a competitor himself, wasn’t involved in the play, he’d probably applaud Beverley’s spirit.