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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Mike D'Antoni: "Russ is on his way."

Posted: July 20, 2020 -- 2:09 p.m. CT

Monday afternoon before practice, Mike D'Antoni gave Rockets' fans news they've been waiting to hear: "Russ is about ready to land here pretty soon." That's right, Russell Westbrook is arriving in Orlando for the NBA Restart and joining his Rockets' teammates.

Once in Orlando, Westbrook will have to test negative for COVID-19 twice and be medically cleared before he can practice with the team.

Coach D'Antoni said Luc Mbah a Moute "is not quite ready, yet."

D'Antoni was asked what Russ' joining the team means for the club's chances in the Restart.

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"Anytime you miss a key piece like that, it makes it a little bit more difficult. But, I know he'll be ready. We're anxious to get him to give everybody a little pep in their step.

Though Westbrook announced last week he had tested positive for COVID-19, D'Antoni believed Russ would eventually join the team in Orlando sooner than later.

"But, there was no doubt before," said D'Antoni. "Like I said, the energy has been great. These guys have been practicing hard; so, it's just one step closer to being whole. We get him in here we can work on a couple of other things. Friday is right around the corner for our first exhibition game.

The Rockets first of 3 scrimmages is Friday, July 24, versus the Toronto Raptors. Tip is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Central Time.

"I don't know about Friday," D'Antoni said regarding whether Russ gets minutes versus the Raptors. "I do expect that once he clears everything that he'll be ready to go and go 5-on-5 and all that. I think Friday might be a little early (for Russ to participate in the scrimmage); but, that'll be up to the medical staff and Russell himself. See how he feels in the days before; but, hopefully, he'll get in a couple of scrimmages and then be ready for us to play (in the 8 seeding games before the playoffs start)."

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