Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What Russell Westbrook's return means for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant made mention of a return from Russell Westbrook for the Thunder’s first game after the All Star break against the Miami Heat – and everyone started talking about what this means for Durant and Oklahoma City.

Do the Thunder need Westbrook? Would he ruin the chemistry that OKC have developed during his absence? Have we seen the last of Kevin Durant’s brilliance? Will the Return of Russ cost KD an MVP award?

In a recent interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons, Durant said that Russell Westbrook would return against the Miami Heat. Durant might not be the official spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Thunder but you can be sure he gets his information from a reliable source. If Durant says Russ is coming back, you will see him back.

Kevin Durant seems like he can’t contain his excitement. Not only does he love playing alongside his All Star teammate, but he really embraces Russ as a friend and he knows that with Westbrook on the floor, basketball is more fun and more successful. If you think the Thunder don’t need Westbrook to win a title, don’t mention that anywhere near Kevin Durant – he is having none of it.

Thunder fans know too that even though Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher have filled in admirably at the point guard spot, nothing short of a healthy Russ at the 1 spot is going to see them reach the NBA Finals. Kevin Durant has played out of his mind, Serge Ibaka has stepped his game up over the past couple of months and Jeremy Lamb has come into his own. Westbrook however still adds his own element to this squad.

He brings an energy and confidence that energizes the entire team. He is able to take some of the scoring pressure off Durant and others as well as giving them a few more very valuable minutes on the bench. The Thunder have struggled at times to put the ball in the basket if KD is not on the floor or is being double and triple teamed – having Russ on the floor assists in that too – literally.

The Thunder have gone a remarkable 22-8 over the time Westbrook has been sidelined. No small feat when you lose an All Star, but once again, as impressive as that may be, the Thunder are still 21-4 with Russ in the lineup. He has assisted on 60% of Kevin Durant’s made baskets and there is no doubt he makes life a lot easier for Serge on a nightly basis.

Being sidelined has also given Westbrook a front row ticket to the Kevin Durant show. Durant has been exceptional over the past month and a half and his running mate has been right there in support of his antics. If anything, the Thunder now know what they have in Durant and the rest of the team, something that they didn’t due to Westbrook’s trademark durability.

When winning a championship is your ultimate goal and when you have spent season after season going to battle and developing chemistry as a dynamic duo, it’s hard to really mess that up. While no-one is expecting Russ to come back with the same form he was starting to find before Christmas, they are more than happy to just see him back out there and finding his game in the lead up to the real action.

Thunder fans should not be worried. Bringing back Westbrook isn’t going to harm the team in any way. You just need to look at the 25 games he has played this season to see that. Opponents should be worried though because the Thunder have the NBA’s best record and are about to add a top 5 player back into the mix.

And Kevin Durant couldn’t be happier.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook

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