Nick FriedelESPN staff writer5 minutes to read
Phoenix – guaranteed Kevin Durant’s long-awaited home debut was with the Phoenix Suns long before the Minnesota Timberwolves won Wednesday night 107-100.
After suffering an unbelievable left ankle sprain when he slid during warmups prior to the March 8 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant was happy to get past the first hurdle of getting through pregame practice Wednesday night. He happily walked through the Suns locker room and into the team’s training room with a message to the waiting staff.
“We’re over it—!” He said with a mixture of pride and relief.
The same can be said after watching Durant have an uncharacteristic shooting performance, shooting just 5-for-18 from the field and scoring 16 points in 29 minutes. After it was over, Durant admitted to being a bit nervous before his home debut in Phoenix.
“It was really hard for me to sleep today,” Durant said. “It was hard for me to stop thinking about the game. Sometimes you can want it so badly. And you go out and play like you start rushing around and it starts to be uncharacteristic. I’m glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m in the playing area again and being there.” around the guys and be one again, just keep building from here.”
Durant started 0-for-6 from the field and didn’t hit a field goal until 5:23 into the second quarter, but his coach and teammates didn’t seem to mind the rust. They were just happy to get him out on the floor again.
“The whole city has been waiting for this,” Suns star Devin Booker said. “It’s a really special night and a big night in the history of the organization, and the fans showed the love they deserve, so I’m glad he got the win.”
Booker and veteran guard Chris Paul discussed the openings Durant created for the rest of the group once he was out on the floor. They have no doubt that Durant, who said his ankle “feels better,” will find his rhythm in no time — good news for the Suns, now 41-35, who have just six games left in the regular season and are fourth. in Western Conference standings.
“You look at the shooting numbers, and you’re like, ‘That’s not Kevin,'” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s the fourth time he’s played for who knows how long. … I thought he’s battling it out on both ends. I think Cardio has to get back to the level he wants. Once he gets that, we’ll see Kevin that we all know.”
In early January, when still a member of the Brooklyn Nets, Durant missed more than a month after suffering a right MCL strain when Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler fell to his knee in early January. He missed nearly another month while waiting for his ankle to heal. Despite the setbacks, he scoffed at the idea that he was injury-cursed due to the randomness of his recent injuries.
“Look at my life – someone cursed me?” Durant said with a smile. “My life looks so good. You can’t say that, man. When I leave this arena my life looks so good. But it’s just part of the game. It’s what it is. It’s a pity. I felt like I was going to play 82 games this year, but this What it is. I’ve learned how to beat different parts of the game. Rehab is one of them, so I just try to do the best I can at it and go back and pick up a discarded left.”
Williams and his new teammates could sense some of the tension Durant has been trying to work off throughout the game.
“He’s used to making every shot and never misses it,” said Williams. “If you watch him in practice and his training, he doesn’t miss a lot of shots. He’s a rare breed. He’s one of the few guys who feels he has to make every shot. My job is to cheer him up when he doesn’t because his game is more than attacking, even though he One of the greatest offensive players I’ve ever seen, I’m sure he is [jittery]Because he wants to make every shot.”
With Durant back in the fold, the Suns remain steadfast in the belief that their best days lie ahead. The group knows Durant has the potential to take them to another level this season, and Wednesday’s game provided another reminder of how much the group can improve even when the future Hall of Famer is on vacation.
“It’s a confidence for everybody,” Booker said of Durant’s return. “Even when he wasn’t playing, he was just on the bench, I feel like a lot of us, with the exception of CP, grew up watching him our whole lives. So respect for what he did in this game and what he did because I know I’m personally there, and you just want to perform. …he’s one of the best people who’ve ever done it.”
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