NBA superstar Kevin Durant made his Suns debut Wednesday night in a 105-91 win against the Charlotte Hornets, nearly a month after he was traded to Phoenix.
Durant got the start in his return from a knee injury and finished with 23 points (10-for-15 shooting) while playing 27 minutes due to a minutes restriction. He added six rebounds, two assists and two blocks for good measure in his first game since Jan. 8.
He got into the action early, scoring five of Phoenix’s first seven points. The Suns led 11-0 before Charlotte even got on the board. After sitting the second part of the first quarter, Durant returned to the floor to start the second and promptly hit a 3-pointer just 7 seconds in. He had 12 points at halftime.
Durant added 11 points in the second half, and that was more than enough with Devin Booker taking over. The eighth-year Suns guard put on a shot-making show in the second half and finished with a game-high 37 points.
“I feel like I fit in pretty well,” Durant said. “Everybody out there was trying to make me as comfortable as possible. I just have to keep riding it, man.”
Suns coach Monty Williams said he doesn’t want Durant, 34, worrying about being a team leader, but rather just playing.
“I think there’s too many players in the NBA that get too much pressure to lead,” Williams said. “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.”
Brooklyn traded Durant to Phoenix last month for a massive return that sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and four first-round picks to the Nets, in addition to a pick swap in 2028. Durant is a two-time Finals MVP (2017 and 2018) and won the 2013-14 regular-season MVP. He’s just four points away from passing Oscar Robertson for 13th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
The Suns, now 34-29 and in fourth place in the Western Conference, hope the combination of Durant, Booker and Chris Paul (two points and 11 assists Wednesday) powers the 55-year-old franchise to its first NBA championship.
There’s a long way to go until that happens, of course, but Wednesday was a promising first step.