Kevin Durant expected to make Phoenix Suns debut vs. Charlotte Hornets

Feb 28, 2023, 11:39 AM | Updated: 4:32 pm
Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv F...
Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on February 26, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant is expected to make his debut for the team on Wednesday in Charlotte against the Hornets, the team announced on Tuesday.

Durant’s first game for Phoenix comes after the blockbuster trade on the night before the trade deadline with the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks and a pick swap. The Suns also received forward T.J. Warren.

Since the trade on Feb. 9, Durant has been continuing to progress back from an MCL sprain in his right knee that has kept him out since Jan. 9. That absence included the six games the Suns have played since the deal and they’ve posted a record of 3-3.

Suns head coach Monty Williams said after practice on Tuesday that Durant will be on a minutes restriction.

Even though Durant is 34 years old, the all-timer is still in his prime with the form he has been in this season. He’s shooting 55.9% from the field and 93.4% at the foul line, which would both be career highs to go along with 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.

Wednesday is the second game of four on the Suns’ current road trip. Chicago will be next up on the docket for Friday versus the Bulls before a showdown with the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday concludes the trip. Durant’s first home game is on pace to be March 8 when Phoenix hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder, the franchise that drafted Durant and where he spent his first nine seasons.

Williams said the team didn’t know yet if this return for Durant will be handled similarly to those for Johnson and Devin Booker. Both of those players missed the next game after their return but those games were part of a back-to-back.

Durant’s insertion into the starting lineup will answer the question of who becomes the fifth starter alongside him, Deandre Ayton, Booker and Chris Paul. Forward Torrey Craig and guard Josh Okogie have been the two other players in the lineup while Durant was out.

The return of Durant couldn’t come soon enough for Phoenix with 20 games remaining in the regular season and an air-tight Western Conference that the Suns still have some work to do in to clinch a playoff spot.

They enter Tuesday’s action fourth at a record of 33-29 but the next nine teams below them are all up to three games behind them in the loss column. Phoenix could also get hot with Durant and catch the Sacramento Kings, who they are four games back of in the loss column for third. There’s also the 36-23 Memphis Grizzlies in second.

Durant’s debut can be heard on the airwaves with pregame coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

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