Two-time NBA Finals MVP and 13-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant finally came back from his right knee injury and debuted for his new team, Phoenix Suns. The 34-year-old forward travelled to Spectrum Center with his team from the Western Conference and beat Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets, thanks to a combined 76-point outing from KD himself, his new 26-year-old All-Star shooting guard teammate Devin Booker and Bahamian centre Deandre Ayton. This victory over the Eastern Conference side consolidated Suns’ position as the fourth seed in the conference, and now trails only three games behind third seed and their division rival Sacramento Kings.
Back to No. 35
Durant was traded from the Brooklyn Net with T. J. Warren to the Phoenix Suns, in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks, and a 2028 first-round pick swap. The deadly scorer had switched from his usual no. 35 jersey in Seattle, Oklahoma and Golden State to no. 7 while playing for the team from the Atlantic Divisions for two and a half seasons, but as Phoenix had already retired their no. 7 shirt in honouring their legend and three-time NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson, Durant decided to go back to his original jersey number of no. 35 in the latest tenure of his NBA career.
Durant started alongside Chris Paul, Josh Okogie, Booker and Ayton for his first game for Suns, and showed no signs of rusting, despite he has been out for approximately two months. The former University of Texas player scored 12 of his 23 points of the night in the first two quarters and led Suns players’ scoring totals in the fourth with 9 to seal the team’s 34th win of the season.
Apart from putting up a respectable scoring number via an impressive 67% shooting from the field, KD also showed why he is arguably one of the best two-way players in the game, by adding six rebounds, two assists and two blocks. His contribution on the court in just 27 minutes was sufficient to help Suns to put a stop on Hornets’ own five-game winning streak, while Suns are now improved to 34 wins and 29 losses this season.
KEVIN DURANT’S FIRST BUCKET AS A PHOENIX SUN. pic.twitter.com/YtD1xWgFO3
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) March 2, 2023
Durant: “No Problem Fitting In.”
The 6 ft 10 in forward talked about his instant chemistry with the team during the post-match conference, stating that he found no problems fitting into the system that the Phoenix Suns play with. He mentioned that, “I feel like I fit in pretty well. Everybody out there was trying to make me as comfortable as possible. I just have to keep riding it, man.”
Suns’ head coach Monty Williams, on the other hand, hoped that his latest addition to the team can just focus playing and not to worry about his leadership role in the team. The 51-year-old added “I think there’s too many players in the NBA that get too much pressure to lead. I just don’t think it’s necessary. It’s my job to lead. The players do it in spots, but that’s the one thing I told him, I said, ‘I’m not looking for you to lead. We just want you to be yourself and hoop,’ and I think that’s where he’s the most free to be himself”.
Terry Rozier from the losing Hornets told his team to continue fighting although they are now without star point guard Lamelo Ball due to a season-ending injury. His statement read “We’ve been together since training camp, but it’s obviously tough when key players are out and in-and-out of the lineup all season with guys missing six weeks and coming back. So, things might be a little off but we fight another day. Just keep fighting”.
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What Will Be Suns’ Eventual Ranking?
Should KD continue to stay healthy for the rest of the season, the newly-altered Phoenix Suns will likely to have a solid form going into the Play-Offs. They will be resting for a few days, before heading to the United Center in Chicago to play the Bulls on Friday. As for the Hornets, they will be welcoming the Orlando Magic to the Spectrum Center on the same day. Do you think Suns are going to win it all from now on? We want to hear from you in the comment section.