Kevin Durant scores 23 points on debut as Suns defeats Hornets

Kevin Durant shook off the gridiron after a nearly two-month hiatus to score 23 points in his debut with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The Suns beat the Charlotte Hornets 105-91. Devin Booker had 37 points while Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds.

Full recap and highlights of Kevin Durant’s debut with the Phoenix Suns

Kevin Durant’s Winding Road to the Suns

It may seem like ages since Kevin Durant actually played basketball, but his debut in a Phoenix Suns uniform is imminent. He will take on the now-exhausted Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte on Wednesday, marking his first game in well over a month.

What began as a loud but unfulfilled trade request turned into a quiet but obvious trade, consummated three weeks ago when Durant’s tumultuous tenure with the Brooklyn Nets ended. He walked away with lots of what-if questions and addressed more of the same in Phoenix, albeit under different circumstances.

Durant will join Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton for one last chance to win a championship after the Suns’ second-round playoff run ended in disappointment last May.

The Suns appeared to be Durant’s primary target when he asked for an exit last summer ahead of his four-year, $194 million extension. He was upset about the direction of the Nets franchise as the Nets had traded James Harden months earlier and Kyrie Irving’s future was in doubt.

Not much changed after Durant withdrew his trade demand, although he and the Nets played nice initially. He returned to his MVP-like form on the ground ahead of his most recent MCL injury in early January.

Days into the season, head coach Steve Nash was fired and replaced by Jacque Vaughn. Irving acted when it was clear he and the Nets were not on the same page regarding his future, and that opened the door for Durant to re-engage the Nets to move him. Meanwhile, despite being by far the best regular-season team in the 2021-22 season, Phoenix failed to regain the magic this season — smack in the middle of the West’s playoff picture.

Once new owner Mat Ishbia was cemented, he began pushing for a big move, and Durant was there immediately. It took a lot – Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and several first-round picks – to secure him, but it opened a title window that previously seemed closed.

Durant, who turned 34 when training camp began, is shooting a career-high 56% from the field and a career-high 62% on 2s. He replaces Paul as the play the Suns will rely on the most in the postseason.

Paul, who turns 38 in May, slowed down significantly in the Suns’ second-round loss to Dallas last year and contributed to a shocking Game 7 meltdown at home. Last season, Durant’s team was swept by eventual finalists Boston Celtics in the first round.

Everyone involved needed a reset button of some sort, and this trade provided one. Durant will be on his fourth team in his legendary career, and he’s had individual success at every stop.

He was champion and Finals MVP with the Golden State Warriors, but after three decorated but sometimes dramatic years, he yearned for more.

Now he has another opportunity to silence the crowd, who believe he needs to validate himself in some other way. Should he help this Suns team through the Western Conference maze, he likely will. Kevin Durant scores 23 points on debut as Suns defeats Hornets

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