He's back! Durant to return as OKC meets New Orleans

(SportsNetwork.com) - The day has finally come for Oklahoma City Thunder fans, as reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant will dust off the sneakers for his season debut Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Thunder got one superstar back last week in Russell Westbrook and now the final piece to the puzzle is in place with Durant's return. Without KD in the lineup, the Thunder are off to a rough 5-12 start.

Durant had been out the entire campaign following right foot surgery and underwent the procedure in mid-October to have a fracture repaired.

He was hobbled by a Jones fracture, which is a broken bone at the base of the small toe, and earned his first career MVP award after averaging 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists while shooting over 50 percent through 81 games last season. Durant became only the fourth player in league history to win four scoring titles in five years, joining Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and George Gervin.

The slender scoring machine recently returned to practice and joins an Oklahoma City squad riding a two-game winning streak after a six-game slide. Westbrook returned from a hand issue Friday and posted 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in just 24 minutes of a 105-78 win versus New York.

"He came out and played great," Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said of Westbrook. "He was in playoff mode. You could tell when you walked into the gym yesterday."

Brooks is happy to have one of his main contributors back on the floor.

"Russell makes players around him better," Brooks said Saturday. "That's what the great players do. That's what he showed us last night ... who he is and what he's about."

Now Brooks is loaded with both Durant and Westbrook.

Serge Ibaka is the other key ingredient for OKC and had 14 points, Jeremy Lamb scored 13 points off the bench and Reggie Jackson added 10 for the Thunder, who shot 44.2 percent versus the Knicks and had a 57-33 advantage in rebounds. Steven Adams pulled down a game-best 13 rebounds for OKC.

Oklahoma City, which enjoyed a nice rest and had time to jell more as a team at practice, is only 1-7 on the road and will make stops in Philadelphia and Detroit on the road swing.

The Pelicans have lost three in a row and are back home briefly after two unsuccessful trips to Atlanta and Washington.

In Saturday's 83-80 loss to the Wizards in the second game of a back-to-back, Anthony Davis led all scorers with 30 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Jrue Holiday chipped in 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting and Ryan Anderson rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points.

"We can't worry about this game or the game yesterday," said Davis. "We have to come out and play. Do what we do, defend, and try to get some easy buckets."

New Orleans shot 37 percent from the floor and made only 6-of-17 3-pointers.

The Pelicans are 4-2 at home and will head west later this week to face the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and LA Lakers.

Oklahoma City went 2-1 against New Orleans last season and had a 10-game winning streak in this series stopped with a 101-89 setback in the Big Easy on April 14. Tyreke Evans poured in 41 points in that one for the Pelicans, who are just 2-14 in the past 16 meetings between the teams.

OKC has won six of the last eight trips to the Crescent City.