Kevin Durant returns to Brooklyn Nets' lineup Sunday after missing 3 games with thigh injury

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant returned to the lineup for Sunday's game, coming off the bench against the Phoenix Suns.

Durant missed three games with a left thigh contusion.

"He might come out flying, he might struggle with his rhythm," Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said prior to the game. "The most important thing is that he gets his legs under him and starts to build his health back, and tonight's the first step in that."

Nash said the plan is to play Durant less than 30 minutes on Sunday.

"We're obviously aware of how little basketball he's played in the big picture the last couple of years, so the goal for us is to make sure he gets to the playoffs healthy," Nash said. "But second to that is in good shape as well, so there's a balance to be struck."

Durant got hurt early in the first quarter of the Nets' game against the Miami Heat last Sunday. Durant was driving toward the basket when he collided with Trevor Ariza. Afterward, the team deemed that his status was day-to-day. Durant remained on the Nets' road trip to New Orleans and Tampa, and he continued to get treatment on his thigh.

Despite Durant's return, the Nets are not yet at full strength.

Brooklyn remains without James Harden, who experienced a setback in his hamstring strain rehabilitation last week and now is out indefinitely. The team also is missing Nic Claxton, who had emerged as a key part of the big-man rotation. Claxton has missed three games in the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The Nets host the Suns at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Information from ESPN's Malika Andrews was used in this report.