Thunder's Russell Westbrook will play against Miami Thursday

When two of the top teams in the NBA square off Thursday night, the Thunder will have a familiar face back in the lineup.

Russell Westbrook will suit up and play against the Miami Heat, hitting the target date that was initially set when he had his third surgery in one year in December.

Oklahoma City Thunder Executive VicePresident and General Manager Sam Presti released this statement about Westbrook'savailability to play in tonight's game versus the Miami Heat:

"We are all very excited to have Russell back. He has worked extremely hard throughout his rehabilitation, and his addition will allow us to build on the progress we have made in his absence. As Russell integrates back into the team we are going to manage the transition by building his minutes over time and will evaluate his availability in back-to-back situations. These steps are an effort to control the areas of his return to play where feasible, given the reduced practice and conditioning time during the regular season. Our goal is to create the best foundation for Russell and the team as we head into the postseason."

Westbrook underwent surgery on Dec. 27 to relieve swelling on his right knee. It was his third surgery of 2013.

Kevin Durant opened the door on the possibility of Westbrook's return when he told Grantland's Bill Simmons that Westbrook would play Thursday against the Heat.

He later backed off that statement and said he was just too excited to have Westbrook back. He also added that he said Westbrook would be back Thursday because that was target date.

Westbrook tore the meniscus on his knee when he collided with Patrick Beverley in the first round of the playoffs in May against the Houston Rockets. In October, the medical team determined a stitch had become loose, causing swelling, and he went under the knife for the second time.

After his second surgery, doctors said his meniscus had healed properly.

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