Kevin Durant dribbles against Alexis Ajinca during an April game last season

Kevin Durant will play tonight vs. Pelicans

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

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.”

Thunder vs. Pelicans

Kevin Durant scores 27 points in his season debut but it wasn't enough as Tyreke Evans and the Pelican defeat the Thunder 112-104.

Pelicans vs. Thunder - December 2, 2014

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Thunder vs. Pelicans

Kevin Durant scores 27 points in his season debut but it wasn't enough as Tyreke Evans and the Pelican defeat the Thunder 112-104.
Dec 1, 2014  |  00:00

Pelicans postgame vs. Thunder: Tyreke Evans (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans swingman Tyreke Evans met with the media Tuesday, Dec. 2 following the team's 112-104 over the Thunder.
Dec 2, 2014  |  01:29

Pelicans postgame vs. Thunder: Anthony Davis (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis met with the media following the team's 112-104 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, Dec. 2.
Dec 2, 2014  |  02:22

Pelicans postgame vs. Thunder: Coach Monty Williams (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans Coach Monty Williams met with the media following the team's 112-104 win over the Thunder at the Smoothie King Center.
Dec 2, 2014  |  05:26

Pelicans postgame vs. Thunder: Ryan Anderson (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson met with the media Tuesday, Dec. 2 following the team's 112-104 win over the Thunder.
Dec 2, 2014  |  02:49

Davis Rejects Perkins

Anthony Davis gets up and rejects Kendrick Perkins shot attempt.
Dec 1, 2014  |  00:00

Davis Cleans It Up

Jrue Holiday misses the floater but Anthony Davis grabs the offensive rebound and gets the put-back layup plus the foul.
Dec 1, 2014  |  00:00

Pelicans shootaround: Anthony Davis (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis met with the media Tuesday, Dec. 2 following the team's shootaround in preparation for their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Smoothie King Center.
Dec 2, 2014  |  03:48

Pelicans shootaround: Jrue Holiday (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday met with the meet following shootaround Tuesday, Dec. 2 at the Smoothie King Center as the team prepared to play the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Dec 2, 2014  |  04:57

Pelicans shootaround: Jeff Withey (12-2-2014)

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey met with the media following Tuesday's shootaround at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m.
Dec 2, 2014  |  01:31

Pelicans-Thunder shootaround: Kevin Durant (12-2-2014)

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, the reigning league MVP, talked with reporters Tuesday, Dec. 2 about making his return to the lineup against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center.
Dec 2, 2014  |  05:26

Pelicans-Thunder shootaround: OKC Coach Scott Brooks

Oklahoma City Thunder Coach Scott Brooks met with the media Tuesday, Dec. 2 following shootaround to talk about the return of Kevin Durant to the starting lineup.
Dec 2, 2014  |  09:25

Gameday preview: Pelicans vs. Thunder (12-2-2014)

Pelicans.com writer Jim Eichenhofer breaks down the key story lines in the Pelicans-Thunder game set to be played Tuesday, Dec. 2 at the Smoothie King Center.
Dec 2, 2014  |  01:03
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