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Kevin Durant makes long awaited return against Pelicans

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Here they are, the words you’ve been waiting to read: Kevin Durant is back.

After nearly a two-month absence due to a left hamstring strain that occurred against the Golden State Warriors on February 13, Brooklyn Nets superstar forward Kevin Durant is making his return to action against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.

It will be the first time Durant has ever played in front of Nets fans at Barclays Center. The last time KD played at home, February 5, fans were not permitted in the building.

Prior to his injury, Durant was in the midst of a miraculous season, putting up 29 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in his 19 total games played. In the time that Durant was out with injury, his Nets have gone 19-4. That’s the best record in the league during that time frame, thanks largely to the heroics of James Harden’s MVP crusade, Kyrie Irving’s ever-fruitful showmanship, and Brooklyn’s depth that accrues more and more talent with every passing week.

Don’t expect Durant to be thrown into the fire just yet. Though Steve Nash didn’t necessarily commit to a firm minutes restriction, he pledged to keep the Hall of Fame forward’s time on the floor “under 35 minutes.”

“We’ll definitely be careful with him,” said Nash. “We’re not going to send him out there to play 35 minutes tonight but, we’ll see how the game goes and figure out what’s the best process for him to stay safe first and foremost. Get time and basketball back into his legs in a real environment. The goal is for him to re-incorporate into the team safely to give him one more step. An extended step of that process not to get out here and play as much as he normally does to put the demands on him we hopefully would be able to handle in the near-term future.”

All during his six-week absence, Durant’s teammates talked about how were anxious and elated to get him back into the swing of things ... especially with fellow All-Star James Harden going down with a Grade 1 hamstring injury on April 5.

“Huge for us,” said Bruce Brown of Kevin Durant’s return during the Thursday morning shoot around. “We’re happy to see him back and healthy. It’s going to be good to see out there on the floor doing what he does best. It’s good to see him back healthy and can’t wait to see him out there tonight.”

At the time of the announcement of Durant’s return to the court, the Nets threw up a video of the 32-year-old getting in some work at practice to prepare for the game against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. Call us crazy, but he looks pretty sharp, splitting his feet on reverse pivots, exploding the opposite direction, and then fading away on one-legged “Dirk shots.”

“Still looks great. Still looks like KD,” Bruce Brown said of Durant’s performance at practice. “Still can score the ball, do whatever he wants to do on the floor. He just makes the offensive game look so easy.”

How long has he been gone? When KD last played, the Nets hadn’t signed Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge ... and Nic Claxton was still 10 days away from his own return. Long time.

You can catch Durant “doing whatever he wants on the floor” against the Pellies on ESPN at 7:30 PM EST. Surely, it’ll be a performance you don’t want to miss.