Kevin Durant has a history of returning from injuries on fire, which bodes well for Suns’ playoff prospects
Kevin Durant has yet to play in front of the fans of his new Phoenix home and now may not have that chance before the playoffs as news broke Thursday that Durant could miss the rest of the regular season after spraining his ankle during a pre-game warm-up on Wednesday night.
It’s bredkill, to say the least. And under normal circumstances, that would be a major problem for the Suns, who now have to assimilate the superstar into the subtle alchemy of NBA offense under fire from playoff competition.
But Duran is unique in this. We often talked about him as a plug-and-play star. He fits anywhere and with anyone because he doesn’t need a certain number of shots from certain places to show his best side. He is always at his best. And this is so, without detracting from the fact that someone else is the best.
He knows when to attack. When to let the game come to him. He knows how to play Devin Booker because he played with Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. Never passive, he knows when to stand aside while someone else cooks. Never shows excessive aggression, he knows when to go one on one.
In between these two regimes, Durant smoothly flows into a seamless, historically effective bridge that somehow never, even after long breaks, leaves him. Consider that in his first game with the new team, after nearly seven weeks out due to injury, Duran made 10 of 15 shots. In three games with the Suns, he shoots 69 percent from the field, including 54 percent from three-pointers.
In 2019, after a month of treatment for a calf injury that resulted in a ruptured Achilles tendon that caused him to miss the entire second and third rounds of the playoffs, he was once again in the fire of a potential elimination game in the NBA Finals. and quickly converted his first three three-pointers.
In 2020, after another seven-week absence, he returned to shoot 5-for-5 in his first game and 65 percent from the field, including 61 percent from 3, in his first three weeks on the court.
Are you wondering if Duran can switch to the start of the postseason after another potential four-week break? Do not worry about it. The male switch never turns off at all.
The Suns are counting on it. They point to the 73 points Durant and Booker combined in just their third game together, when they looked like they’ve played each other all their lives, and tell themselves they’ll bounce back. place, even under playoff pressure.
Most likely they are right. Durant is not only great, but versatile. Throw in Chris Paul’s experience and Booker’s equally adaptable talents, and the Suns are just as prepared to reach their peak on the fly, without rehearsal, as any newly formed team.
Which is good, because they will most likely be tested right at the gate. If the playoffs started today, the Suns would face the defending champion Warriors, who are recovering themselves, in the first round. If it’s not the Warriors, then it could be Luka/Kyrie Mavericks or Kawai/PG Clippers. Even Minnesota would present a serious problem.
Even though the matches are out of whack, Phoenix won’t have a runway to pick up speed. They must take off immediately. Having Durant makes that prospect a lot less daunting.