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Suns say Kevin Durant expected to make debut vs. Hornets

The 13-time All-Star, who was dealt to Phoenix on Feb. 9, has not played in a game since Jan. 8 when he was with the Nets.

The Inside crew debates whether the trade for Kevin Durant will result in a championship for Phoenix.

The Kevin Durant era in Phoenix should begin when March does.

The Suns announced Tuesday that Durant — who was acquired via a blockbuster trade a month ago — is expected to make his debut Wednesday night on the road against the Charlotte Hornets (7 ET, NBA League Pass). He is officially listed as probable for the game vs. Charlotte.

Phoenix landed Durant in a Feb. 9 trade with the Brooklyn Nets and he was introduced to the media a week later, but he has not played since Jan. 8 because of injury. Durant is recovering from a sprained knee ligament, and when he returns he will join a Phoenix lineup that suddenly could be one of the best in the Western Conference.

This is Durant’s fourth different team in seven seasons, but he doesn’t feel like joining the Suns midseason will be a huge adjustment.

“I have a lot of experience in the league, so the transition was a little easier than it would have been 10 years ago,” Durant said following practice Tuesday. “It’s a quick turnaround and everything happened so fast. But the game is the constant thing.”

Durant has spent the past couple of weeks getting to know his new teammates on a personal level, as well as how they operate on the floor while mostly watching from the sideline as he recovers from that sprained knee.

The knee has been pain-free for the last couple of weeks, according to Durant, and now it’s a matter of working his body into game shape.

He said going through a full practice with teammates on Tuesday helped.

“I feel great. I am looking forward to getting this opportunity to play again,” Durant said. “It’s been a long time. I was having fun out there before I got injured. I’m looking forward to going out there and picking up where I left off. I know it will take me some time to get used to everything early on.”

The Suns are hoping that Durant’s addition gets them over the hump after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the 2021 NBA Finals.

And yet Phoenix had already been on the upswing even before Durant’s arrival. They struggled with injuries for most of the first half of the year, but have won 12 of their last 17 games and entered Tuesday fourth in the West at 33-29 — one-half game ahead of the LA Clippers and three games behind the No. 3-seeded Sacramento Kings.

Suns fans have been overjoyed by the biggest superstar arrival in Phoenix since the Suns traded for Charles Barkley in 1992. Durant has been trying to visualize where he fits into the Suns’ system and how he can have the biggest impact while learning the team’s plays.

“I know my versatility can help me a lot of different areas on both ends of the court,” Durant said. “Being able to shoot the ball from different areas of the floor can help me, even if I don’t know every small subtlety in a play I can still try to figure out just by movement and stuff.”

The 34-year-old Durant is still playing at an elite level, averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game this season. He initially asked for a trade last summer and the Suns were interested before Durant patched things up with Brooklyn. They finally got him, less than 24 hours before the trade deadline.

He said his new teammates have been eager to integrate him into offensive sets.

“Having a long practice helped, and we were able to figure some stuff out,” Durant said. “So it’s been fun. I’m looking forward to trying to translate over to the floor and see how we can keep building.”

Durant is clearly embracing his new surroundings and the idea of playing with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and contending for another NBA title. Durant said he likes the energy of his new team and sees plenty of chemistry.

“There is an enthusiasm for the game and if a problem arises everyone is talking about it,” Durant said. “It’s not simmering or lingering over for too long and that’s always a good thing.”

The Suns paid a hefty price, sending Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, and other draft compensation to the Nets. Bridges was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year while Johnson has evolved into a versatile scorer.

Bridges, Johnson and Crowder were all instrumental in the team’s run to the Finals two years ago, where it lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. That trade eventually became a four-team deal in which Crowder landed with the Bucks.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.