NBA viewing guide: Russell Westbrook returns as Thunder host Suns

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder made surprising news when Russell Westbrook's return was announced Sunday, and Jason Kidd will also make his debut as the Brooklyn Nets coach.

Not many saw Russell Westbrook's return from offseason surgery coming in the third game of the season, but that's the reality. The Oklahoma City Thunder announced their guard would return Sunday against the Phoenix Suns, and now NBATV's featured game has an added wrinkle.

Here's a look at that matchup and the other five games on Sunday's schedule.

The appetizers: Celtics vs. Pistons

6 p.m. ET

The Celtics lost their first two games under coach Brad Stevens, while the new-look Pistons are 1-1 and coming off an overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Does Brandon Jennings make his debut? The Detroit point guard hasn't played for his new team because of an impacted wisdom tooth. He is considered a game-time decision against the Celtics. Without him, the Pistons have gotten balanced scoring but could use a bit more from the perimeter.

Do the Celtics play unselfishly? Forward Gerald Wallace has been openly upset with his new team, calling them out via the media once in the preseason and again after Boston's second loss of the regular season.

Reading material: Detroit Bad Boys wonders about Josh Smith's perimeter defense in a preview piece, and at Celtics Blog, Jeff Clark wonders if Jeff Green is the player Boston can look to for big shots.

Wizards vs. Heat

6 p.m. ET

Miami isn't used to losing streaks, so a third loss in a row might call for a reasonable amount of concern in South Beach. Meanwhile, the Wizards are just trying to gain traction.

Can Miami regain its defensive identity? The Heat aren't 1-2 because of their offense. With LeBron James and Dywane Wade playing well, that's never a really concerning issue. In the two-game losing streak, Miami has not held an opponent under 48 percent shooting, and it fell 101-100 to the Nets by allowing Brooklyn to shoot 8-for-16 from three-point range.

Reading material: Bullets Forever chronicles coach Randy Wittman's F-bomb about the Wizards' own defensive issues. Hot Hot Hoops has a general preview of tonight's game with a history lesson on the last meeting between the two teams.

Nets vs. Magic

6 p.m. ET

The Nets are coming off a big win against the Miami Heat that will provide the building blocks for a budding rivalry, but they also opened the season with a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Orlando is coming off its first win of the season, a 110-90 thumping of the New Orleans Pelicans.

How will Jason Kidd handle rotations? It's a nice problem to have too much talent and too few spots on the court. That's the case for Kidd, who makes his coaching debut on Sunday. Against the Heat, no Nets starter played more than Paul Pierce's 31 minutes. How Kidd handles rotations will be a thing to watch.

Reading material: Nets Daily writes on Jason Kidd's coaching debut -- he was suspended the first two games because of a DWI charge -- and his relationship with Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post reports Arron Afflalo is scoring with ease.

The main course: Suns vs. Thunder

7 p.m. ET, NBATV

The Thunder won't be finding out how tough life is without point guard Russell Westbrook. After a surgery to repair a torn meniscus and another to fix a stitch in his knee, Westbrook has been cleared to play Sunday against the Phoenix Suns, a team that is off to a surprising 2-0 start.

Does Westbrook look rusty? It's hard to place expectations on Westbrook, but the biggest wonder is how game-ready he looks. Is it too much to ask for this?


Does Eric Bledsoe continue his magic? The Suns looked set for overtime in their last game, an 87-84 win against the Utah Jazz, but Eric Bledsoe waved off a screen on the final Suns possession and swished a three-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to give Phoenix the win. Offensively, he's been very up and down -- he scored the Suns' final 14 points against Utah -- but he could certainly be a defensive key against Westbrook.

Does Serge Ibaka get out of his funk? The Oklahoma City forward has shot the ball poorly in the first two games, hitting 7-of-28 shots. He might look to take some frustrations out on the Suns and backup forward Markieff Morris, who elbowed Ibaka in a preseason game and sat out the season opener as punishment.

Reading material: Bright Side of the Sun's Dave King breaks down the Suns' cap situation and the turnover from this last offseason. In its game preview, Welcome to Loud City asks if the Suns' poor three-point shooting will continue against the Thunder.

The side dish: Timberwolves vs. Knicks

7:30 p.m. ET

New York is coming off a one-point loss to the Chicago Bulls, while Minnesota is 2-0 and most recently turned in a 100-81 blowout against the Thunder.

Can the Knicks function playing big? The Knicks will likely start Andrea Bargnani alongside Tyson Chandler, which will be an interesting matchup against the Kevin Love-Nikola Pekovic duo. Additionally, New York will hold Amar'e Stoudemire out, which also cuts into the team's big man depth.

Reading material: Canis Hoopus writes that the T-Wolves defense could hinge on Corey Brewer keeping the bigger Carmelo Anthony in check.

The dessert:Hawks vs. Lakers

9:30 p.m. ET

After a season-opening win against the Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers have dropped back-to-back games against Golden State and San Antonio. Sunday, the Lakers host the Atlanta Hawks, who have split their first two games against Dallas and Toronto.

What does Mike D'Antoni's rotation look like? The Lakers will start Xavier Henry in place of Nick Young, and Jordan Hill is expected to earn more playing time. The youth movement will be needed for a team trying to find itself around Pau Gasol, who has been the most consistent player through three games. If anything, Sunday means more aggressive Xavier Henry drives. Hopefully, none lead to nine-stitch lacerations.

Reading material: Peach Tree Hoops' Kris Willis reports that Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is happy with how the pieces are coming together in Atlanta, and Silver Screen and Roll's Drew Garrison analyzes Pau Gasol's influence.

More from SB Nation NBA:

Sunday Shootaround: Boston needed Russell's statue

Believing in Boogie: The maturation of DeMarcus Cousins

Tjarks: How the new CBA ruined the Mavs

O'Donnell: Derrick Rose brings The Roar back

Longform: How the Pistons became a team apart from Detroit

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