Feeling like Griswold: Suns fans left waiting for Kevin Durant’s home debut after scratch

Mar 8, 2023, 8:23 PM | Updated: Mar 9, 2023, 5:03 pm

It didn’t take long for Kevin Durant and the Suns to find cruising altitude. His arrival in the Valley had been seamless, smooth, without a whisper of turbulence.

That is, except for his debut at Footprint Center.

Durant was a late scratch on Wednesday night, a huge letdown for a sold-out crowd anticipating one of the most celebrated home debuts in franchise history. The NBA superstar slipped during pregame warmups, landing awkwardly on the floor. He re-laced his shoes and continued with his workout.


It marked the second home game Durant has missed against the Thunder, one of his former NBA employers. Much to the chagrin of ESPN, Durant was scratched from a Feb. 24 contest at Footprint Center, after he successfully scrimmaged with his new team.

But Wednesday’s circumstances were a lot different. Before the eventual 132-101 win for the Suns, the excitement was palpable. The streets of downtown Phoenix felt like the beginning of Mardi Gras. And Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault raved about Durant’s ability to instantly assimilate with his new team.

“The thing that I have always been impressed with him is, for a player who literally can do whatever he wants on the court on any possession, he really does a great job of blending into the team and kind of harnessing his own talent,” Daigneault said.

“He did that here (with Oklahoma City). He did it in Golden State. He did it in Brooklyn. And he’s doing it again, which allows the team to be good, too. Not just his individual talent. And I think that is one of the quiet value-adds that he brings to the team above just the fact he’s one of the greatest players ever.”

When Durant was scratched near tipoff, it felt like partygoers discovering nothing but non-alcoholic beer in the refrigerator. One fan said he now knows how Clark Griswold felt when showing up at Wally World only to find a closed amusement park.

In a best-case scenario, Durant’s pregame injury is just a temporary setback and a fresh reminder of how tenuous and fragile championship hopes can be, especially in the Valley. It was a reminder that a wet spot on a basketball court can derail everything.

Durant’s absence didn’t stop the Suns from dropping a 34-point first quarter on Oklahoma City. But it clearly dampened the mood and the evening for everyone who thought they were about to witness a historic milestone.

Granted, Durant doesn’t need any introduction. He was traded to the Suns on February 9. His debut press conference occurred on Feb. 16, attended by over 5,000 screaming fans. And he’s already been a prime-time performer in three consecutive road victories.

But his first game at Footprint Center represents something bigger. In 55 years of history, the Suns have never deployed a pair of top-shelf superstars. And this was a chance to show the rest of the world what Durant, Devin Booker and the Suns can do when armed with one of the loudest home-court advantages in the NBA.

That will have to wait. Again.

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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