Kevin Durant on the Suns coming together: ‘We understand what the process is like’
Jan 23, 2024, 7:35 PM | Updated: Jan 24, 2024, 9:05 am
Kevin Durant said trial and error can better a team, and now that the Suns are healthy and getting more comfortable with each other, the wins are stacking up. Six straight victories including a pair of 20-plus-point comebacks has shot the Suns into the top six of the Western Conference as they approach an arduous seven-game road trip.
Patience and time have been themes this year when the Suns spent much of the first half teetering in play-in territory.
“We had no other choice because we had to get up and come to work regardless and we kept grinding and trying to figure stuff out on the fly,” Durant told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday. “I think we all been a part of teams like that, where guys are in and out the lineup and you’re trying to figure out your identity with a new coach, new system.
“We’re pros so we understand what the process is like but we understand we got a big microscope on us and so many people are expecting us to play well and get it pretty quickly. So we understand what the business is like and just try to stay patient and and keep grinding and get healthy.”
The Suns entered the season with a new head coach in frank Vogel and a roster unrecognizable from only to years ago outside Devin Booker.
Part of the learning curve is the chemistry between Durant, Booker and Bradley Beal, three stars in their first extended run of games together. Friday’s win over the Pelicans was a Booker night, one in which the Suns kept feeding him and he dropped 52. Durant carried the Suns across the finish line on Monday with a 30-point second half and the game-winner. Durant has been playing some of his best ball as a member of the Suns since returning from a hamstring injury, as he scored 83 points over a back-to-back Sunday and Monday.
Durant said finding the hot hand becomes simple when defense turns to offense.
“I think it is easier to figure it out once you get stops on the defensive side,” he said. “You don’t always got to play against a set defense or call a play. And I think all three of us are good at playing in transition after a stop. We had a lot of stops that New Orleans game and Book got it going in the first quarter. So it was like, we see something that works, we try to keep going to it. … But it all stems from us getting stops. We do that, the ball will find the best players.”
Part of the trial and error from the coaching staff includes going small with Durant at the 5, something he has done with previous teams and the Suns have started to implement.
It was key in their comeback win over the Sacramento Kings last week.
“I like everything about basketball, you put me anywhere and I can try to figure it out as best as I can,” Durant said. “I know that could give us so much space with me at the 5 with four shooters around. So it usually makes a coach have to make an adjustment and play his best defenders in the game and not a big man. I think coach is using that lineup to throw the other team off for a split second and we might go back to our original game plan, who knows, but just having different attacks I think makes us unpredictable and makes a good team.”
Kevin Durant is willing to play the 5 in smaller lineups, but what does he think makes it so effective?
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) January 24, 2024
What would a Suns championship mean for Kevin Durant?
Durant has two NBA titles with the Warriors — a team that earned a ring a year before he arrived — and won both NBA Finals MVPs as Golden State’s best player in those showdowns with the LeBron James-led Cavaliers.
What would a third title on a new team mean for the Suns superstar playing in a city aching for its first NBA championship parade? How would it impact how fans view him?
“I don’t even look at it that way, I’ll be happy to experience something with this group of guys in this city,” Durant said. “We’ll celebrate that together if it happens, but it’s not about me at the end of the day. It is about all of us. Everybody plays a part from the fans to media to the players to executives, so it’s bigger than just me.
“So I’m not really thinking about what that means for whatever legacy means, I guess that’s what people are saying about me when I’m done playing, I can’t really concern myself with that. I’m just enjoying the experience. If I get an opportunity to go through that experience with this group or with this city, I’ll be more than grateful and happy that I was able to do it. But regardless, I’m gonna come to work every day and put my best foot forward for the city and my teammates.”
Durant told The Athletic last year he used to care more about his legacy, although he recently begged the question to azcentral what hasn’t he done to warrant consideration in the conversation for greatest of all time.