Kevin Durant will play tonight vs. Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder Coach Scott Brooks told the media after his team’s shootaround Tuesday that reigning league MVP Kevin Durant will make his season debut against New Orleans tonight. Brooks added that Durant will be capped at about 30 minutes of playing time.
“He hit all the benchmarks we’ve had in place in this process,” Brooks said of Durant’s recovery from a stress fracture in his right foot. “The next step is to play games. We want to keep him around 30 minutes, give or take. We’re excited to have him back. He’s had seven to 10 days of good practices with us, a lot of contact. He’s excited to be back. Our guys are excited.”
“Hopefully we can get on a roll and start winning some games,” Durant said.
One game after Russell Westbrook made his own season debut on Friday, Oklahoma City (5-12) is now approaching full strength health-wise. It does not come at a fortuitous time for New Orleans (7-8), which needs a win after struggling last week in defeats to Sacramento, Atlanta and Washington. The Pelicans are 1.5 games behind eighth-place Phoenix in the Western Conference standings, though tied with the Suns in the loss column. The Western clubs in slots 1 through 7 are all at least seven games above .500 and, at least at this juncture, look like near certainties to be in the postseason field.
Pelicans players said after their team shootaround that they were preparing for Tuesday’s game as though Durant would be available, which proved to be the case.
“We were scouting and preparing like he’s going to play,” Pelicans All-Star and Sports Illustrated cover subject Anthony Davis said. “If he doesn’t, we’ve got other guys we’ve scouted for… I just want to get the win, whether he’s on the floor or not.”
Brooks said the return of his two standout scorers will affect Oklahoma City’s style of play, something New Orleans will have to contend with Tuesday.
“Obviously we are going to play a little faster now,” Brooks said. “Possessions are good for us. Give our guys a lot of credit, when we had not only those two guys out, but five or six other guys as well, they battled every night and put us in a position to win every game, but one or two. We played a different style than we’ve ever played here… But we’re excited to have Kevin and Russell back. Pretty soon we’re going to have our whole team back, to where we can pick and choose the 13 active players (instead of it being dictated by injuries).”
Durant’s return has brought significant national attention to the Smoothie King Center. ESPN.com writer Marc Stein is here reporting for SportsCenter and covering Thunder-Pelicans.
Other notes from shootaround:
- Durant on Anthony Davis: “He’s playing MVP basketball. He’s a guy who can do so much on the offensive end and also the defensive end. He’s athletic and can shoot it. I’ve seen how hard he works in the summertime, so everything he’s getting right now, he deserves it. He’s playing extremely well right now.”