Kevin Durant makes Suns the latest super team pressured to win a championship

Feb 16, 2023, 5:34 PM | Updated: 6:13 pm

Kevin Durant’s official introduction wasn’t a press conference. It wasn’t a pep rally.

It was something of a hybrid. More like a press rally. Or a pep conference.

Whatever we just witnessed, the Suns’ newest superstar seemed genuinely touched by the reception awarded to him by the 6,000 or so fans who attended the Durant unveiling Thursday at Footprint Center. And he walked away with a pretty good understanding of the hunger that defines us all.

At one point, a reporter asked Durant what delivering a championship to this city would mean to Phoenix and to his legacy.

Before he could answer, a fan screamed from the lower bowl:

“It would mean everything!”

Already, the excitement is palpable. So is the tension. The dearly departed Mikal Bridges just dropped 45 points for the Nets, a fresh reminder of how the Suns mortgaged a big chunk of their future for that elusive championship banner.

That’s OK. Time is running out on Chris Paul. The Western Conference is wide open and cleared for takeoff. Whatever team emerges from the brutal Eastern Conference will be worn to a nub once the NBA Finals arrive. It’s a great time to swing for the fences.

Besides, there is no future. It’s just a concept. It doesn’t exist and it never arrives. And unfortunately, you can’t go back and change the past. Which means time is only now. Time is always now.

And time is way past due for this forsaken franchise to exorcise all playoff demons.

“Are we ready?” Suns General Manager James Jones asked the crowd.

When Durant finally takes the court, the Suns will have a new target on their back. In some ways, they are the NBA’s latest super team, a term that carries villainous connotations. And yet the Suns are the rare super team that came together at the trade deadline.

They must find a quick rhythm and a microwave identity at a time when other contenders in the West make a mad dash for the finish line. And we all know how playoff intensity surges dramatically, increasing the dangers of injury, especially among older players.

There are also great expectations for a team that flamed out of last year’s playoffs, and Durant is very aware of the pressure he’s under to help finish a job that began in 1968.

“It’s pressure because I’m one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” Durant said, inciting gleeful howls from the crowd. “So every time I step on the floor people are going to expect me to do great things, and the team I’m on to do great things. But I enjoy getting better as a player every day and just waking up and getting to do this.”

As a legion of young fans spilled jubilantly out of the arena, many of them wearing jerseys of players no longer here, you couldn’t help but wonder: Is this going to work? Is this really going to happen? And how will it feel if the Suns end a 55-year title drought with a team that has been together for 22 games by the time the playoffs arrive? With a team that will feature a host of new faces after the All-Star break, and not just Durant.

Will it feel cheap? Will it feel mercenary? Will it feel all wrong, less than, and not at all what we anticipated?

Judging by Thursday’s turnout, it will feel just fine.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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