It might not carry the gravity or significance as the simple message that Michael Jordan once released upon returning to the NBA in 1995. His two small words, “I’m back”, sent shockwaves through the Association and through popular culture
If you’re a Phoenix Suns fan, however, the news provided by The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Tuesday afternoon, carried a similar significance.
After missing 10 games with a sprained ankle, Phoenix Suns All-NBA star Kevin Durant will make his return Wednesday vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves barring setback, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. pic.twitter.com/vePOrtWS7W— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 28, 2023
We all knew that this was in the cards, that the target date of KD’s return was Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Still, you never know until you know.
Durant will make his Phoenix Suns home debut 47 days after being acquired in a monumental transaction at the trade deadline. We were close to this moment before, and electricity was in the air as Kevin Durant took warm-ups against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 8. It was then that, while driving to the hoop for a layup, Kevin Durant twisted his left ankle. He finished out his warm ups, staying on the court for an additional 10 minutes to do so, and then headed to the locker room.
The news came out shortly that he would miss the game.
Ironically, it was a rare rainy day in Phoenix, Arizona, and the gloom cast by the weather seemed to consume the city with the news. Such is life for the Suns. We can’t have nice things.
Three weeks to the day later, Durant will appear before the Phoenix faithful at the Footprint Center. The atmosphere will be electric.
The task before him is not an easy one. It begins with a game against the streaking Timberwolves and continues with the expectations of a winning the first ever championship for the franchise. There will be a resetting of rotations and offensive integration for KD to maneuver. And I’m guessing there will be minutes restrictions over the final seven games of the season.
His addition drastically changes the effectiveness of the first team unit. The team has gone 4-6 in his absence after going 3-0 with him in the lineup. In the 10 games without him, the Suns’ starters have averaged 74.5 points per game. That has been 23rd best in the league in that time frame. They’re 25th in rebounding and have been a -6 overall.
It has been the bench that has been holding the team together. The bench is the third (43.8 points) in the league in scoring in KD’s absence.
Phoenix sits where they did when Kevin Durant went down, holding tightly to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. While his addition will give Phoenix a boost, it most likely will not propel them into the third seed. They are five games behind the Sacramento Kings with seven games to play.
But if the Suns can hold onto the fourth seed, if they can give themselves home court advantage in the First Round, it is a desirable first step towards potentially winning a championship.
Welcome to the Valley, KD.