The Phoenix Suns made the biggest splash ahead of the NBA Trade Deadline in landing Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets to become Western Conference favorites even though Durant hasn’t made his Suns debut yet. There was some hope that would happen as early as Sunday at the Milwaukee Bucks in a potential NBA Finals preview on national TV – ABC would have been thrilled – but now Durant is not likely to play until next Wednesday at Charlotte.
Kevin Durant’s Suns Debut Now Expected March 1 Vs. Hornets
That game is the second leg of a four-game road trip for Phoenix, with matchups against the Chicago Bulls (March 3) and Dallas Mavericks (March 5) to follow. The Suns return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, March 8.
The former MVP suffered an MCL sprain on Jan. 8 when he was a member of the Nets during their win at the Miami Heat. Durant was among the league’s top 10 scorers this season before he was injured, averaging 29.7 points per game along with 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 55.9 percent from the floor and 37.6 percent from deep. Those are MVP-caliber numbers.
The 13-time All-Star (he was voted to start this year’s game but had to sit out) was traded on Feb. 8 to Phoenix for Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, four future first-round draft picks (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) and a trade swap. After the deal that sent Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, Durant specifically requested the move to Phoenix.
“My knee feels solid,” Durant said recently. “I’ve got a couple more days before games and stuff, so I’m just going to try to figure it out with the training staff and see what the best option is.”
How will Durant and fellow star Devin Booker play off each other? That’s one big question the Suns have to answer and their defense is likely to take a hit without Bridges. Needless to say, the team would like to incorporate Durant as soon as possible to get in sync ahead of the playoffs. Durant, as uber-talented as he is, is new to the Suns, and there are bound to be some growing pains as the overhauled roster finds its own identity.
The Suns have two games before Durant’s possible debut. Phoenix, which currently sits fifth in the West at 32-28, returns from the All-Star break to face the Oklahoma City Thunder at home on Friday (picked up by ESPN, which sparked some Durant return rumors for that game but it won’t happen) before that heavyweight battle with the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday.
There are some rumors the Suns might add another future Hall of Famer in Carmelo Anthony. The 10-time All-Star has been unable to secure a new contract with any team after his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers last season. However, Durant seems to be pitching Carmelo to the Suns: “I think he has the talent to play in our league,” KD said. Melo could at least provide scoring off the bench, and he’s one of Chris Paul’s best friends as well.
Point guard Cameron Payne, who has missed the last 21 games because of a right foot sprain, likely will be back Friday. Payne this season is averaging 12.1 points and 5.3 assists per game. He started 14 of his 24 games when Paul has missed time with injuries of his own. Payne averaged 15.1 points and 7.3 assists in his starts. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, selected directly after Booker.
“It’s been tough,” said Payne, who hasn’t played since Jan. 4 at Cleveland. “I probably say the toughest part is coming to the gym every day and watching the guys play, especially when I want to play so bad. It’s been kind of tough. I’m ready to play, like I said, Feb. 24. I can’t wait. OKC game.”
Fellow guard Landry Shamet suffered a foot injury just after the turn of the New Year, and has been sidelined indefinitely since then. He’s not expected back quite yet. Shamet has averaged 21.4 minutes per game with the Suns this season, putting up 9.5 points per game.
The Suns (32-28) have used 23 different starting lineups with the latest one being Paul, Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig, Deandre Ayton and Booker. They’ll make that 24 when Durant returns.
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