Russell Westbrook expected to start Thursday against Miami Heat

Posted Feb 18, 2014 by Daniel Porter
After missing the last 30 games due to knee surgery, Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook is expected to make his much anticipated return on Thursday night against the Miami Heat.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook
The last time Russell Westbrook suited up for the Thunder David Stern was still the NBA Commissioner, Jay Leno was still the host of the Tonight Show, and Bob Costas was pink eye free. That tells you just how long Oklahoma City has gone without their second best player.
Thankfully for NBA fans everywhere, the wait is almost over. On Friday, teammate Kevin Durant told Grantland's Bill Simmons that Westbrook would be back in the starting lineup when the Thunder host the Miami Heat on Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
In the ten minute interview filmed last Friday and released yesterday, Simmons didn't waste any time asking the question on everyone's mind. Durant responded in typical Durant fashion; shoulders back, relaxed in his chair, and a just a tiny bit of enthusiasm in his voice.
"Next game right after All-Star break, against Miami." Durant said.
He went on to praise Westbrook's sideline coaching during his on court absence as well as a handful of Thunder reserves who have stepped up over the last month and a half. Most notably, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb who are averaging 13.6 and 10 points per game this season, respectively.
The Thunder were red hot in January thanks in large part to Durant's huge boost in productivity. In January alone, he averaged 36.9 points per game. A feat that has only been accomplished by four other players in NBA history. This along with a substantial increase in rebounding, assists, and consistency at the free throw line helped catapult Durant ahead of Lebron James in the MVP race.
The two superstars will go head-to-head on Thursday night for the second time this season (not including the All-Star game) in what could likely be a preview of the 2014 NBA Finals. In their previous matchup Oklahoma City won 112-95. The Heat will have a chance to even out the regular season series as they attempt to slow down one of the best offenses in the NBA.
The game will air at 8pm EST on TNT.