Kevin Durant has been watching the Phoenix Suns from afar in recent years, admiring the rising core of Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.
Now he’s thrilled to be a part of it.
“We have all the prerequisites to be successful,” Durant said.
The 13-time All-Star was unveiled on the floor of Footprint Arena on Thursday in front of about 3,000 fans, who showed up in the middle of the afternoon just to hear the veteran forward answer a few questions.
Many were already wearing his No. 35 jersey, which has been a hot seller at the downtown fan shop since GM James Jones ended the blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just before last week’s close.
Almost every time Durant tried to speak Thursday, he was interrupted by cheers from fans who were over the moon at the arrival of the biggest superstar in Phoenix since the Suns traded for Charles Barkley in 1992.
The two-time Finals MVP enjoyed the applause but said he didn’t deserve it.
“I appreciate your warm welcome, but we still have work to do,” Durant said.
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He later added: “I feel like I still have to prove myself. I want to put good stuff on film every day. It’s the only thing I’m concerned with at this point in my life, putting good stuff on film.” I look forward to doing that for Suns fans and hopefully they’ll accept me afterwards.”
Durant, 34, is still playing at the elite level and is averaging nearly 30 points per game this season. He originally asked for a trade last summer and the Suns were interested before Durant made things right with Brooklyn. They finally caught him with less than 24 hours to go.
The Suns paid a heavy price, sending Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029, and other draft indemnities to the Nets. Bridges was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year while Johnson has emerged as a versatile top scorer.
Bridges, Johnson and Crowder were all instrumental in the team’s run to the Finals two years ago, where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.
Durant is recovering from a sprained knee ligament, and when he returns he will join a Phoenix lineup that could suddenly be among the best in the Western Conference. He said he hopes to be back soon after the All-Star break.
Durant and Booker played together on the US team that won the gold medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“I think I built my game around being efficient, making good shots and making good plays at both ends of the floor,” Durant said. “I think my defense feeds my offense. I like shooting up the middle, I like slicing at the basket, I like doing the little things on offense and I think that makes you a versatile player and adapts to any offense.”
The Suns were on the upswing even before Durant arrived. They struggled with injuries for most of the first half but have won 11 of their last 14 games and finished fourth in the West on Thursday, 32-27 – a half game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, their opponents Thursday night.
Booker (groin) and Paul (hip) both recently returned.
Now the Suns are adding one of the game’s most gifted scorers.
Phoenix has never won an NBA championship, losing in the finals in 1976, 1993 and 2021.
“That’s why we play basketball,” Durant said. “We understand that. But I’m more concerned about what we do as a team every day that you guys don’t see. I think that really brings championships.”
Associated Press coverage.
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