Durant Back Tonight For Thunder
By Randy Renner
Remember yesterday when Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said there were no changes to announce "yet" with the Thunder's starting lineup? Well now there is.
Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA MVP and league scoring champ, will make his season debut tonight in New Orleans against the Pelicans.
"KD will play tonight," is how Brooks put it when he talked to reporters after Thunder shootaround today. Durant has been back at practice for about 10 days and his workload has steadily increased.
Brooks told reporters in Oklahoma City yesterday that KD had gone through all of Monday's practice. When no problems cropped up overnight or at shootaround today the green light was shining.
So now the Thunder will have their two superstars back in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Russell Westbrook returned Friday against the Knicks after missing 14 games with a broken finger. He scored 32 points in 24 minutes that night.
Durant has missed the entire season after a broken bone, a "Jones" fracture was discovered in his right foot during training camp. Durant had told team medical personnel he felt pain in his foot and that's what led to the discovery.
He had surgery the next week and was expected to miss six to eight weeks. When he plays tonight it will be three days short of seven weeks since the surgery.
Durant will be on a minutes restriction tonight, but it's a pretty high one, 30 minutes is the limit on his playing time tonight.
The Thunder have won two consecutive games for the first time this season and go into tonight's game at 5-12, but they are just 4-and-a-half games out of the playoffs in the Western Conference with 65 left to play.
Rookie forward Mitch McGary is healthy now too. He's played in back-to-back games for the Oklahoma City Blue and last night had a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. McGary is flying to New Orleans and is expected to be in uniform for the game.
The schedule is favorable over the next few games. The Pelicans, despite the outstanding play of Anthony Davis have struggled lately. OKC plays at Philadelphia on Friday and at Detroit on Sunday, those two teams have combined for just three wins all season.
So Thunder fans, it's time to breathe again. KD and Russ are back, the team is as healthy as it's been since training camp and it's time to start having a little more fun.