When: 5 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte — North Carolina
Watch: Bally Sports AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM
Spread: Suns -10.0 favorites
It’s finally here.
Kevin Durant’s highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut is set to take place today against the Charlotte Hornets.
20 days ago, the Phoenix Suns acquired Kevin Durant in what was arguably the biggest trade in franchise history. We’ve seen Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson thriving in Brooklyn, we’ve seen Jae Crowder... play basketball.
And finally... we get to the grand prize. Watching Devin Booker and Kevin Durant play basketball together. Soak this moment in, Suns fans.
The best part is his debut comes in a winnable game against a (suddenly-hot) Charlotte team that unfortunately just lost their star guard LaMelo Ball for the season.
- Chris Paul
- Devin Booker
- Josh Okogie
- Kevin Durant
- Deandre Ayton
- Terry Rozier
- Kelly Oubre Jr.
- Gordon Hayward
- JT Thor
- Mark Williams
- Landry Shamet (foot) is OUT
Following Tuesday’s practice, Durant spoke to the media about his looming debut:
“I feel great. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to play again. It’s been a long time. I was having fun out there before I got injured, so I look forward to going out there and picking up where I left off.”
- LaMelo Ball (ankle) is OUT
- PJ Washington (foot) is OUT
- Cody Martin (knee) is OUT
Hornets All-Star LaMelo Ball will miss the remainder of the season with his fractured right ankle, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Ball has had multiple left ankle sprains this season before suffering the right ankle fracture on Monday night.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 28, 2023
What to Watch For
- Don’t be fooled by Charlotte’s record.
They have sneakily won five straight games due to a variety of players stepping their game up. They did receive unfortunate news in that LaMelo Ball will miss the remainder of the regular season after suffering an injury against the Pistons.
That certainly hurts them a great deal. However, there have been several positives for the Hornets during this stretch.
Rookie center Mark Williams has been magnificent since moving into the starting lineup, averaging 12.1 points, 9.9 boards and 1.7 blocks while shooting 64.9 percent from the floor over the last seven games. Ayton will have to make sure he punishes the rookie inside early and often.
- How will the Hornets gameplan for Kevin Durant?
The Hornets do have some size and young athletic bodies that they will throw at Durant throughout the game. It may not matter.
Gordon Hayward has been playing excellent ball of late, looking like his Utah Jazz self over the past several weeks. Former fan favorite Kelly Oubre Jr. is also back from injury and contributing for Charlotte. Either Oubre Jr. or Smith Jr. are the two most likely candidates to take Ball’s spot in the starting lineup.
My hunch is it’s Oubre to have another wing that can attempt to guard Durant.
A major question has been who will be the fifth starter with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) February 28, 2023
Who is the last one leaving the court?
Monty Williams has said Okogie or Torrey Craig will get the start partly based on matchups. #Suns pic.twitter.com/NDBuE9GBZq
- The Suns rotation is another storyline to watch, as newly acquire TJ Warren has been a DNP-CD the past two games.
Head Coach Monty Williams said: “To play him, you’ve got to bump somebody out. We feel we have a decent rhythm. Pretty soon we’re going to get Kevin and that’s going to knock someone else out. You can’t play everybody.”
The impact on minutes will land on guys like Ross, Lee, and Wainright. If Monty’s comment hints towards anything it’s that one person will be the odd man out rather than a committee taking a minutes hit. Like most of his lineups moving forward, they are likely to be matchup-based and situational.
- Feed Deandre?
Deandre Ayton is quietly having a dominant stretch of late. All eyes will be on Durant (and Booker) so this is where Ayton can sneak in and have himself a productive and efficient ball game.
Deandre Ayton in February:— Booker Muse ✪ (@DevinBookerMuse) February 28, 2023
Top __ center in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/np1Lo7rEk8
Life is only going to get easier for Deandre playing alongside Durant. I’m also looking forward to watching him and KD play defense together. It’s not too often you get a pair of seven footers as mobile as they are on the same squad.
Just one more time for the people in the back.
Kevin Durant is expected to make his Phoenix Suns debut tomorrow in Charlotte.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 28, 2023
There will be some growing pains here and there, but the talent figures itself out naturally and pushes the Suns to a victory. 119-113, good guys.