Kevin Durant felt the nerves ahead of his home debut for the Phoenix Suns but was thrilled to be back from injury.
Durant has endured injury frustration in his first months as a Suns player since his trade from the Brooklyn Nets.
The 2014 MVP joined the Suns on February 9, but he had played only three times prior to Wednesday’s meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
All of those games, which were won by Phoenix, came on the road.
Having missed the last 10 games due to a sprained ankle, Durant returned for his home bow against the Timberwolves, and he had 16 points, four assists and eight rebounds in a 107-100 victory.
Durant acknowledged that even with his wealth of experience to call on, it was hard to keep the nerves in check.
“It was hard for me to get sleep today, it was hard for me to stop thinking about the game,” Durant said. “Sometimes you can want it too bad, and you come out, start rushing and being uncharacteristic.”
Now, he aims to build up his fitness as the Suns look towards securing a postseason berth. Booker and veteran guard Chris Paul discussed the openings that Durant created for the rest of the group simply by being out on the floor. They have no doubt that Durant, who said his ankle “felt great,” will find his rhythm in no time — which is good news for a Suns team, now 41-35, that has just six regular-season games left and is fourth in the Western Conference standings.
“You look at the shooting numbers, you’re like, ‘That’s not Kevin,'” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “That’s his fourth time playing in who knows how long. I thought he battled on both ends. I think his cardio’s got to get back to the level where he wants it. Once he gets that, we’ll see the Kevin that we all know.”
In early January, when he was still a member of the Brooklyn Nets, Durant missed over a month after suffering a right MCL strain when Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler fell into his knee in early January. He missed close to another month while waiting for his ankle to heal. Despite the setbacks, he laughed off the idea that he had been cursed by the injury bug given the randomness of his latest injuries.
With Durant back in the fold, the Suns are steadfast in the belief that their best days remain in front of them. The group knows that Durant has the ability to take them to another level this season, and Wednesday’s game offered another reminder of just how much better the group can be even when the future Hall of Famer is having an off night.
“It’s confidence for everybody,” Booker said of having Durant back. “Even when he wasn’t playing, he was just on the bench, I feel like a lot of us, minus CP, grew up watching him most of our lives. So the respect for what he’s done for this game and what he’s done for I know me personally is there, and you just want to perform. He’s one of the best to ever do it.”
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