Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant greeted fans officially for the first time last Thursday at his introductory press conference at the Footprint Center. The event seemed like a coronation even though the 13-time All-Star is yet to make his debut with the Suns.
For those in attendance, it definitely was one of the most memorable events in the history of Arizona’s professional sports teams. Durant is arguably one of the greatest players to play within Arizona and might be the best ever to wear a Suns uniform. That said, Durant made it clear he wanted to prove himself, even though he is one of the greatest players of all time.
“I still feel like I got to prove myself every day,” Durant said. “They (Suns fans) set a high standard for the players here. I could tell by how much, how dedicated they are to the team. So it’s a high standard set every night for each player, and I want to reach that every day. So I feel like I still got to prove myself. I want to put good stuff on film every day. That’s the only thing I’m concerned with at this point is my life, is putting good stuff on the film every night. So I’m looking forward to doing that for the Suns fans and hopefully accept me after that.”
Suns fans could get their first chance to cheer for Durant Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though Durant’s return date is yet to be confirmed, there have been hints Friday could be his first game in Phoenix, as ESPN picked up the game for a telecast.
If Durant makes his debut then, it will be must-watch TV to see if the Suns can reach championship expectations that have ascended since he was traded to the team for beloved players Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson and a whopping four unprotected first-round picks and a pick swap. On paper, Phoenix has its best four-player lineup in history and could have its best team in the franchise’s 55 years of existence if it reaches championship expectations.
Even though the Suns will be projected to succeed, coach Monty Williams will have his work cut out for him. Phoenix, which has had great continuity with its corps of shooting guard Devin Booker, center Deandre Ayton, Johnson, Bridges and others over the last few seasons, has to adapt with 22 games remaining in the regular season.
"It's huge as far as us figuring out what's the most important thing to run. Right now, I think it's the old Pop (Gregg Popovich) saying, less is more. We're going to try to figure that out once we get back."— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) February 10, 2023
Monty Williams on upcoming film work with Kevin Durant. #Suns pic.twitter.com/7R1bJERvUh
Durant’s presence will change the Suns as a whole. They have been one of the best team-oriented offenses in the last few seasons, using their motions to create opportunities for Booker – their best shot-maker – rolls to the rim for Ayton and catch-and-shoot chances for Bridges, Johnson and others. Williams hinted at the end of last postseason Phoenix perhaps needed one more shot-maker to improve its championship hopes and Durant is the ultimate epitome of that.
“Right now, I think it’s the old (San Antonio Spurs coach) [Gregg Popovich] saying, ‘Less is more,’” Williams said when asked about film work with Durant prior to the All-Star break. “We’re going to try to figure that out once we get back.”
It will be necessary for the Suns to figure out what is – again, on paper – their best chance to win a championship. Durant’s addition is one that is very rare – Bright Side of the Sun publisher Dave King noted last week it is the team’s best acquisition when the player has gone to the team – and is a stepping stone that cannot be overstated. Many have criticized the Suns for perhaps not making another move last season to maximize their title chances. The magnitude of this one is very apparent.
Durant’s return will include plenty to watch for, including his minutes on a limited scale to team chemistry and his inclusion on a larger note. He is expected to give the Suns maybe their best duo with Booker. Unlike his title runs with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Durant will play with a pass-first point guard – Chris Paul – and arguably the best center he has played with in his career, Deandre Ayton.
Those Warriors teams were seemingly one of the best ever in the NBA. It is way too early and perhaps impossible to compare this Suns squad to them, but it will be very interesting to see how Williams and his players orchestrate a team that has multiple ways to attack.
The Suns will face the Thunder – Durant’s former team – Friday at 8 p.m. MT. It could mark the most exciting period in the team’s history. History can only tell us what happens next.