Kevin Durant debuts with Suns with no regrets and no expectations other than to hoop

CHARLOTT, North Carolina. The irony didn’t escape Kevin Durant as he walked down the back hallway of the Spectrum Center as he exited the building following his successful debut as a new member of the Phoenix Suns.

When he was in his final season with Golden State and his future teammate Kyrie Irving was still in Boston, these two were in that very back hallway on All-Star Sunday and Internet detectives determined that Irving gave Durant his lift pitch to team up in Brooklyn after this season.

Duran chuckled but said it wasn’t true that the two friends were joking about something else. Even if that were the case, neither of them could have imagined everything that had happened since then, their grand plan went up in smoke after appearing so promising at first glance.

Durant began another hopeful journey, filled with championship hopes and an obvious focus on testing, as if he were an untitled champion and a two-time Finals MVP.

Wherever he goes, June’s path is likely to follow as he’s tasked with helping the Suns not only get back to the Finals but also avenge their six-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.

On Wednesday night, against the depleted Hornets, Durant looked easy.

It always looks easy.

He comes over here. He fits everywhere.

This is his gift, perhaps his defining gift of all. And that’s probably what sets him apart from any other superstar in NBA history.

Durant played 27 minutes—slightly longer than scripted—and scored 23 points with six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a 105–91 Suns win. Hooper was excited to work hard at Durant to return to competition for the first time since an MCL injury in early January took him out of the game for several weeks.

Things are finally slowing down.

“Once I moved and settled in Phoenix, things got better,” Durant told Sportzshala Sports. “But it won’t calm down until I play. I need a week or so… mentally I was on one team, and now I ended up on another team so quickly. I have never gone through this before. I’m just trying to think it all over.”

That’s a lot, if you don’t count. During the summer, Durant received a trade request from Brooklyn, after which he and the Nets issued a joint statement promising to move forward this season when there was no suitable deal.

Then, after a slow start for the Nets, coach Steve Nash was fired. Durant was injured in January after playing at his usual high level, then Irving – after a tumultuous start to the season on his own – the Nets said they didn’t want to discuss a contract extension until after the season. to sources.

Irving issued a trade request and was sent to Dallas.

Duran then quietly returned to the Nets’ management and asked for a date again. This time it was necessary and he got to Phoenix for the first time, a spot on his trade list – a team that won’t be depleted by trades for him, still hiring the likes of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and seasoned point guard Chris Paul. .

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant drives past Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Aubre Jr. at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 1, 2023.  (Brian Westerholt/USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant drives past Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Aubre Jr. at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 1, 2023. (Brian Westerholt/USA TODAY Sports)

“I’m processing it right now. This is a business, this is how I look at it,” Durant said. “I am not the first person to be traded or asked to be traded. I don’t look at myself or my status in the league because I can’t go through what other players in the league go through.”

He got it right on Media Day in September and did all of Durant’s miracles in the hall during his remaining time in Brooklyn, but the rationale behind the original trade request hasn’t changed in that time.

— What do you think it was? Duran asked, as he usually did with the media during the sessions. “I looked at the year we were last year and then this year what we do [for the future]? I’m here. I signed a contract [extension]but no one around me signed up. There was too much confusion. I’m glad I can move forward.”

James Harden was traded for Ben Simmons, who turned out to be a net minus. Irving’s future was in doubt for various reasons.

“I was thinking about who was in the building when the shit started. We don’t play well. KI requested an exchange. There was a feeling that a lot of shit was happening not for us. But I was locked up. I felt that my game showed people that I was truly committed to the organization.

“I looked up, like, what should I do? I don’t know who my teammate will be, so I was a little nervous about it. And we were able to come up with something.”

Durant was criticized for Irving being in and out of the controversy, as the Nets took Irving with them as a condition of getting Durant, placing him in the lead position. In Phoenix, the Suns seem to be aware of this conversation and don’t want Durant to get into that situation.

“I think too many players in the NBA are under too much pressure to lead,” said Suns coach Monty Williams, who was an assistant at Oklahoma City in 2015-16 when Durant was there last year. . “I just don’t think it’s necessary. My job is to lead. Players do it in places. But that’s the only thing I told him. I said I’m not looking for you to lead. We just want you to be yourself, and I think that’s where he’s most free. To be youreself.

“We have Chris. The book goes its own way. Chris [has] been a great leader all his life. we just want [Durant] To be youreself. He can show the nuances of leadership in the way he works. It was interesting to hear the comments, different players and different people in the gym, and they see how he trains. It doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen. And I think it had a huge impact.”

Durant is rarely bothered by the outside world during a game. After a mini-camp of sorts between his trade before All-Star weekend and the days between Sunday’s game and Wednesday, Durant was able to put in some tough practice with his new teammates before finally stepping on the floor.

He was fascinated by Booker’s 37-point, seven-assist, and six-rebound performance, no different from how he admired Irving’s exploits on the floor. The suns aren’t particularly deep, and after so many stellar seasons on top of point guard’s mountain, Paul is starting to slow down a bit.

There is hope not only that the Suns will surpass the West even with their shortcomings, but that Durant will lead them. It’s not the overpowering super-team that people thought he had at Golden State, or the disorganized team in Brooklyn that couldn’t stop themselves from tripping over their own feet.

It’s not an ideal setup, at least. But Duran can work in the desert and silence his vocal critics like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. They are NBA legends, TNT talking heads, and more importantly, old school gatekeepers.

Duran chose his words carefully as he made his way to the command bus.

“I don’t know how to say this, these guys…but…”

Set unfair standards on you?

“Most likely. Because for now, they say, play with Scoot Henderson and win the championship, and then we will give you credit,” Durant told Sportzshala Sports. “I don’t need any loan from you, no loan from [Barkley], no credit from Shaq. You will never have to watch me play again, don’t talk about me if you don’t want to. [rock] with me. I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing. Everyone has their own opinion, dude. It won’t stop me and the way I approach the game.

“In terms of team management, I don’t have to coach any team. Whatever happens, we do it together. [Monty’s] leader, he is a coach. GM is assembling a team. I have to go out and hoop. This is my job.”

Durant boarded the bus after greeting some fans at the loading dock, smiling and posing for photos, chuckling when one of them said, “You looked good out there,” as if Durant expected to perform as something less than himself.

He was asked one last question: does he regret the extension, which seemingly handcuffed him to this unnecessary mess, instead of returning to free will again, to freely choose the situation of his own choosing.

“I do not regret anything. I don’t regret anything in my life,” Duran said. “[Not] does signing an extension cost that much money?”

He laughed again, blissfully dismissive, but always realistic.


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