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Thunder's Russell Westbrook (knee) cleared to return vs. Heat

Russell WestbrookRussell Westbrook will return to the court on Thursday. (Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)

Russell Westbrook will return to the court for the first time since Christmas when Oklahoma City hosts Miami on Thursday night.

Thunder GM Sam Presti announced that the three-time All-Star point guard is ready to go after undergoing three surgeries on his right knee since April 2013.

"We are all very excited to have Russell back," Presti said in a statement. "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 first underwent a meniscus repair surgery on his right knee back in late-April after a fluky play involving Rockets guard Patrick Beverley during the first round of the 2013 playoffs. That surgery ended his 2012-13 season, and the Thunder were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Grizzlies.

The sixth-year guard then underwent surgery in October to address swelling caused by a loose stitch from the first surgery. Although he was initially expected to miss the first four-to-six weeks of the season, he returned after sitting out the preseason and Oklahoma City’s first two games. However, Westbrook hasn't played in a game since Oklahoma City blew out New York on Christmas Day, as he was forced to undergo another arthroscopic procedure to address swelling in his knee in late-December.

Westbrook, 25, is averaging 21.3 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per game over 25 appearances this season.

Oklahoma City is 21-4 this season with Westbrook in the lineup and 22-8 without him. During Westbrook's most recent absence, Thunder forward Kevin Durant has emerged as a strong contender to win the first MVP award of his career and the Thunder possess the league's best record at 43-12 despite Westbrook's injury absences.

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