EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Pedigree, mindset of Kevin Durant make him a perfect match for Phoenix Suns

Feb 16, 2023, 6:13 PM

PHOENIX — You just never know who is watching.

After largely being protected as a tanking team, when the Phoenix Suns surprised everyone in the 2013-14 campaign and won 48 games, Kevin Durant was.

His 59-win Oklahoma City Thunder squad lost twice in the regular season to those Suns. He was impressed, impressed enough to cite that group when he was introduced as a new member of the Suns on Thursday.

“They always had a solid team, somebody I respected and when you came in here, this was a battle,” Durant said of the Suns and Phoenix. “You knew the crowd was going to be into it from the tip. And I think one of the best teams since I’ve been in the league was that team that didn’t make the playoffs. … With the twins and P.J. Tucker and I think that was one of the teams that sold me, ‘Alright, this is a destination to come play. This is a place that, they really get behind their team.’

“And also, the style of play that team had. I felt like that’s always evolved, the fast team here in Phoenix. That drew me here. You always keep an eye out on organizations  and teams throughout the league, throughout your career and this is one of the teams and one of the cities I always respected and I was glad I was bale to come full circle and I’m here now.”

Isn’t that wild?

It goes to show that no matter how much or how little national media attention a team here in the Valley gets, the people that really matter are always paying attention. Chris Paul saw the Suns grinding in the bubble to an 8-0 record and he mentioned them upon his arrival too.

Durant coming to Phoenix certifies the Suns’ status across the league and the excellent job head coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones did in rebuilding the foundation of the organization from the ground up.

A lot of that was possible due to Devin Booker, the 26-year-old face of the franchise who won a gold medal with Durant for Team USA in Tokyo two summers ago. Durant has praised Booker from afar for years, and Durant gravitated here because of him just as much as anything else.

Booker is known as your favorite hooper’s, favorite hooper. Durant is the hooper.

“He has a pure game. He can score from every area of the floor with efficiency. He’s athletic but he don’t really show it a lot. But he can,” Durant said, noting Booker’s two dunks from Tuesday’s win surprising him a bit even though he knew Booker had that in his game. “He’s just such a quiet, efficient scorer and he goes about his business on and off the court in a mature manner. I just wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to be a part of his journey and see how good he can get from here.

“He’s just one of those players I really admire. And people are going to be doing classes on him once he’s done playing. You can learn so much from watching his game.”

To that point, Durant’s press conference achieved its goal in letting you know what he’s all about. And if you weren’t excited as a basketball fan to see what his presence around Booker will do for his game, you should be now.

Even after just 15 minutes of speaking in a somewhat rabid setting, a talk with the media in front of a few thousand fans at Footprint Center, it was easy to understand why he is great and why he has been able to accomplish as much as he has.

“I still feel like I gotta prove myself every day,” Durant said. “They set a high standard for the players here and I could tell by how dedicated they are to the team. … I want to reach that every day. … I want to put good stuff on film every day. That’s the only thing I’m concerned with at this point in my life is putting good stuff on the film every night.”

Durant brings with him an unmeasurable amount of hype that cannot be comparable to anything else in Valley sports history. He also brings expectations.

His teammates have to be ready for that. And I focus on them, because here’s the thing, he absolutely is.

“I know it’s always pressure because I’m one of the best players to ever play the game,” Durant said. “So every time I step on the floor, people are gonna expect me to do great things and the team I’m willing to do great things. I enjoy getting better as a player every day. I enjoy just waking up and getting to do this. I don’t ever say anything is a failure if I’m healthy enough to play the game of basketball. I know what’s on our backs and we understand that and we want to do the most. We want to get the most out of this opportunity.”

All of that really puts into perspective how perfect of a fit he is. The basketball geeks in us has been, rightfully so, spotlighting how effortlessly Phoenix’s style of play will ease him into the system. But as far as the philosophies and principles, he’s right there with what the Suns are about too.

“I’m more concerned about what we do every day as a team, the stuff that you guys don’t see,” Durant said, followed by a huge cheer from the crowd. “I think that’s what really brings championships and puts us in the position to win a championship is the work that we put in every day.”

And when it comes to what it takes to win it all, something Durant’s done twice with a pair of Finals MVP trophies as well, he took us on the full journey of bringing it back around to the core decision-makers of the team. The guys that are, as we covered, responsible for him even being there.

“It starts with James and Monty in my opinion,” Durant said of what makes superteams work. “They’re the leaders of the team. They oversee what we do every day. Monty is the one that’s supposed to put everybody in positions to be successful and on the great teams that I played on, that’s what it always was. The coach was always the leader.

“We spread his message on the floor and we extend (it) on the floor but he’s the one that’s giving us the pointers on what we do. … I’ve been to a couple of practices already and the attention to detail is something that I love and if we continue to stay on that path every day we’ll see good things.”

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