Durant talks return, playing with Booker in intro presser

The Phoenix Suns introduced Kevin Durant at an on-court press conference at Footprint Center on Jan. 16. (Phoenix Suns/Submitted)

With the NBA All-Star break over, Kevin Durant’s highly anticipated return to the court and debut with the Phoenix Suns is about ready for tipoff.

The superstar forward has been out since mid-January with an MCL sprain in his right knee. Prior to his injury, he was averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 56% shooting with the Brooklyn Nets.

“I don’t know, but hopefully soon,” Durant said at his Jan. 16 introductory press conference on when he will return to the court.

“Hopefully you can feel my enthusiasm in wanting to get out there and get ready to play. But I’m going to follow the training staff and follow what they have me on. But hopefully soon after the (All-Star) break.”

The Suns almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the remainder of this season acquiring Durant. In a flurry of moves that took place around the NBA’s trade deadline, Durant to the Suns is arguably the most impactful to both the Suns and the rest of the NBA’s title contenders.

It has been known for quite some time that Durant was interested in becoming a Sun. A large factor in that, he said, had to do with Devin Booker and the respect he has for him and his game.

“I’m looking forward to playing with somebody like (Booker) who plays kind of similar to how I play,” Durant said. “We use the same spots on the floor, but try to do it quick and efficient, so I’m looking forward to it.”

“He has a pure game,” he later said. “He can score at every area of the floor with good efficiency. … He goes about his business on and off the court in just a mature manner, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of this journey to see how good he can get from here. He’s just one of those players that I really admire. People will be doing classes on him once he’s done playing.”

As it turned out, Durant’s interest in the Suns and the Valley isn’t something that has become a recent development. The two-time NBA champion has kept his eye on Phoenix since his rookie year in 2007-08.

“I feel like once I got into the league, Phoenix was always one of the top teams in the league,” Durant said. “They always had a solid team, always had someone I respected. When you came in here (as the away team), this was a battle. You knew the crowd was going to be into it from the tip.

“You always keep an eye out on organizations and teams throughout the league throughout your career. This is one of the teams and cities that I always respected. I’m glad this was able to come full circle and I’m here now.”

Durant’s interest in a move to the Suns would not have existed if he didn’t think the team would win a championship. At his introductory press conference, he said this Suns team has “all the pieces to be successful.”

Despite the obvious pressure that comes with that, he doesn’t see it as a failure if the Suns don’t win a championship with him on the roster.

“I know there is always pressure because I’m one of the best players to ever play the game,” Durant said. “Every time I step on the floor, people are going to expect me to do great things. But I enjoy getting better as a player every day. I enjoy just waking up and getting to do this, so I don’t ever say anything is a failure if I’m healthy enough to play the game of basketball.

“But I know what’s on our backs; we understand that. We want to get the most out of this opportunity.”

That said, the Suns are among 12 NBA teams to have never won the NBA Finals. Having been on the cusp over the last couple years, Durant knows this team has a real opportunity to “accomplish something.”

“I know how significant a championship is to a franchise and to a city,” Durant said. “I’ve been a part of two of those and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and try to build again, but I know how tough it is. This fanbase is looking forward to cheering for a winner.”