NBA

Durant felt Nets 'lost identity' without Irving, Suns have 'all the pieces'

By Sports Desk February 17, 2023

Kevin Durant felt the Brooklyn Nets lost their "identity" without Kyrie Irving and believes the Phoenix Suns have "all the pieces to be successful" following his blockbuster trade.

Durant last week swapped Brooklyn for Phoenix in a sensational switch that saw the Nets receive a package including Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and four unprotected first-round draft picks.

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Durant's departure came after Irving requested a trade and duly joined the Dallas Mavericks.

Durant found Irving's exit hard to take, and the 34-year-old is relishing his new challenge with the Suns.

He said in his first press conference as a Suns player on Thursday: "I was upset that we couldn't finish. I thought we had some good momentum.

"We were finally building a culture that we always wanted. I felt like every game we were building our chemistry, but I didn't know what was going on with Kyrie and his situation with the organisation, so I didn't really focus on that.

"I only focused on what we were doing on the court, and it was a blow to our team. It just took away our identity. He was a huge, huge part to what we do. His game, he's a Hall of Fame player, a great, great player that can do everything on the floor, and we relied on that.

"So without him, we didn't have a clear identity. That was tough for me to stomach. I love playing with those guys throughout the year. I felt like we had dudes that were stepping up and doing stuff that they didn't do on their previous teams.

"I enjoyed everything about it – it was tough not finishing the season, but I just tried to move forward as quickly as I can and try to figure something out for myself, but also still focus on trying to rehab and get back. So it all happened so fast, but I'm glad it worked out this way."

Durant thinks he can add to his list of honours during his time with Phoenix, who are fifth in the Western Conference at 32-28.

"I think we've got all the pieces to be successful," Durant said. "We've got guys that have experienced what it's like to play in that final round.

"We've got a champion [Suns GM James Jones] already that's overseeing us. Monty's [head coach Williams] a champion as a coach. So we've got guys that have been there, and that's half the battle, just knowing what it takes."

Durant rued not having a regular opportunity to be on court with Irving and James Harden with the Nets.

"We just didn't get on the court enough," Durant said. "I think when you have seen James, Kyrie and myself, it was amazing basketball for [16] games, but in order for you to win a championship and be a great team, you just need more time on the floor.

"It's another story about why we didn't get on the floor together, but we just didn't get enough time on the floor. And those are Hall of Fame players that I learned a lot from every day. I'm wishing them the best as well. It just didn't work out."

He added: "It was a lot of ups and downs, but I loved the grind. And everybody in Brooklyn loved the grind, too, so I built a family over there. They're going to always be part of my journey. So we didn't accomplish what we wanted to accomplish as far as winning a championship, but I enjoyed the grind.

"And everybody there, we tried our hardest every day, regardless of what was going on in the media or what was going on with our team-mates."

Durant continued: "I get emotional talking about them because that was a special four years in my career, coming off an Achilles [injury]. They helped me through a lot, so I don't have anything [bad to say]."

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