Russell Westbrook had an MRI that revealed a strained right quad, and will be reevaluated before the playoffs, the Rockets announced Wednesday, via ESPN’s Tim Macmahon. Westbrook will miss their game against the Indiana Pacers in a matchup that has possible seeding implications for Houston in the Western Conference. He had already missed two seeding games, wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings. The team says Westbrook will also sit Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers

Fortunately, Houston got third guard Eric Gordon back on Wednesday after a two-week absence following a sprained ankle suffered during a Rockets scrimmage. If Westbrook is compromised or forced to miss playoff games, the Rockets at least have a deep backcourt including Gordon, bubble standouts Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore, and of course, former MVP James Harden. 

Still, the Rockets would obviously prefer to have their other former MVP at full strength in the postseason. Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Westbrook has averaged 30.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game for the Rockets. He has been the primary beneficiary of Houston’s decision to abandon the center position entirely, as surrounding him with four shooters has covered his deficiencies in that arena quite well and opened up the lane for him as a driver. 

If the playoffs started today, Houston would face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. That would be an emotional series for Westbrook, who spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Oklahoma City, as well for as Chris Paul, who was traded to the Thunder by Houston in exchange for Westbrook. The Rockets could climb as high as No. 3 or fall as low as No. 6 before the seeding games conclude on Friday. 

No matter where they end up, they are going to need Westbrook if they plan to make a serious run at the championship. For all of his gifts, Harden can’t carry the entire ball-handling load for four consecutive rounds. Westbrook is one of the most important players of the postseason, so hopefully, he can return to full strength before the playoffs start. 

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