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Scottie Pippen is confident Russell Westbrook will return from injury an even better player

Scottie Pippen, Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook underwent minor surgery on his right knee last month after experiencing a bit of stiffness. And though he’s not been cleared for full contact just yet, Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen believes Westbrook will return as an even better player.

Pippen joined Rachel Nichols on Friday’s episode of The Jump. Amid their discussion, Pippen made a point of Westbrook’s competitive drive after suffering an injury.

“I expect him to come back better.” Pippen said of Westbrook during his appearance on The Jump. “When we’ve seen him have injuries in the past, he comes back with this fierce, competitive fire. I expect nothing less. He’s had the summer to get his body physically ready.”

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has recently stated that Westbrook is “progressing” with his rehabilitation and getting closer to a return. As of Thursday, he’s progressed to “controlled contact,” according to a report from ESPN’s Royce Young.

“Every day for him, he feels better and better,” Donovan recently told ESPN, referring to Westbrook. “I don’t want to say [if he’ll be ready]. I know you guys want to know that, but that’s too far out and there will be a lot of things that will go into that decision.

“There’s certain things he’ll have to go through to get himself fully cleared to play, but he’s certainly moving in the right direction and he’s worked really hard at his rehab to get himself back,” Donovan added.

Westbrook is coming off of a great season. The former No. 4 overall pick made 80 regular season appearances with the Thunder, racking up averages of 25.4 points on 44.9 percent shooting from the field (29.8 percent from beyond the arc), 10.3 assists (career-high), 10.1 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in 36.4 minutes per outing.

The Thunder will kick off their 2018-19 regular season campaign on October 16 with a match-up against the Golden State Warriors. Tip-off inside Oracle Arena is set for 10:30 p.m. EST with TNT having live broadcast coverage.