Kevin Durant shook off the rust after a nearly two-month layoff, scoring 23 points in his debut for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The Suns beat the Charlotte Hornets 105-91. Devin Booker had 37 points, while Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Full recap and highlights of Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns debut
Kevin Durant’s winding road to the Suns
It seems like it’s been ages since Kevin Durant played basketball, but his debut in a Phoenix Suns uniform is upon us. He will speak against the now depleted Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday in Charlotte, marking his first game in more than a month.
What started as a loud but unmet trade demand turned into a quiet but obvious exchange, consummated three weeks ago when Durant’s tumultuous tenure at the Brooklyn Nets came to an end. He came away with a lot of storylines and went into the same thing in Phoenix, albeit under different circumstances.
Durant will join Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton in what could be one last chance to win a championship after the Suns’ playoffs ended in second-round disappointment last May.
The Suns appeared to be Durant’s top target when he asked out last summer, before his four-year, $194 million extension took effect. He was unhappy with the direction of the Nets franchise, as the Nets had traded James Harden months before and the future of Kyrie Irving. was in doubt.
Not much changed after Durant rescinded his trade request, even though he and the Nets initially played well. He returned to his MVP form on the floor before his recent injury at MCL in early January.
Days into the season, head coach Steve Nash was fired, replaced by Jacque Vaughn. Irving was traded when it was clear he and the Nets weren’t on the same page regarding his future, and it opened the door for Durant to re-engage the Nets by moving him. Meanwhile, Phoenix, while by far the best regular-season team in the 2021-22 season, couldn’t find the magic again this season — midway through the West’s playoff picture.
Once new owner Mat Ishbia was cemented, he started pushing for a big move, and Durant was there for the taking. It took a long time – Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and several first-round picks – to secure him, but it reopened a title window that seemed closed beforehand.
Durant, who turned 34 at the start of training camp, is shooting a career-high 56% from the field and a career-high 62% from 2s. He replaces Paul as the play the Suns will rely on the most in the playoffs.
Paul, who turns 38 in May, notably slowed in the Suns’ second-round loss to Dallas last year, helping to a shocking Game 7 home slump. Durant’s team last season was swept in the first round by eventual finalist Boston Celtics.
Everyone involved needed a reset button in some way, and this one provided one. Durant will be on his fourth team in his storied career, and he’s had individual hits at every stop.
He was champion and Finals MVP with the Golden State Warriors, but yearned for more after three decorated but sometimes drama-filled years.
Now he has another opportunity to silence the crowd that believes he needs to validate himself in a different way. If he had to help this Suns team through the Western Conference maze, he probably would.