The Oklahoma City Thunder have moved out of the Western Conference cellar after back-to-back victories last week, but received a major boost with the announcement that superstar forward Kevin Durant will return to action Tuesday tonight in a road game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Durant, 26, was diagnosed with a fractured right foot on Oct. 11. The reigning MVP returned to practice last week, but only participated in a full practice on Monday.
According to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, Durant will be restricted to 30 minutes a game. There are questions as to how effective Durant will be with limited time to practice and after playing just two preseason games. In the two games, Durant scored 11 points in 12 minutes against the Denver Nuggets, and 12 points in 18 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks.
"Just excited to get back out there with my teammates," Durant said on Tuesday. "It's been a long six and a half weeks just trying to get better and get my foot right. The training staff did a great job, so I'm just looking forward to playing tonight.
"I know it's going to be a little bit different for me not having played ... and then going out there and playing the highest level of basketball. But I'm looking forward to going out there and seeing where I am and playing as hard as I can for my team."
Durant suffered a Jones fracture, which is considered an “overuse injury.” The injury begins with soreness and progressively gets worse until medical treatment in needed.
Durant’s return will be quite welcomed for the Thunder. He has averaged 27.4 points per game, and nearly seven rebounds a game over his career. Durant led the Thunder to 59 wins and a trip to Western Conference finals last season.
It’s been a rough 2014-2015 season for the Thunder. Durant’s star teammate Russell Westbrook missed 14 of the team's 17 games with a hand injury, as Oklahoma City won just four games without their All-Star duo in the lineup. With a 5-12 record, the Thunder are currently 10 games back of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. The Sacramento Kings, Nuggets, and Pelicans are all ahead of the Thunder in the race for the final playoff spot which is occupied by the Mavericks.
Head coach Scott Brooks has had to rely on seldom-used players in place of Durant like Lance Thomas, who shot just 32.1 percent from the field in November. The Thunder are last in the league in scoring (90.9 points per game), and have shot just 42.2 percent.