NBA

Durant impressed with surging Suns after winning return to Brooklyn

By Sports Desk February 01, 2024

Kevin Durant likes where the Phoenix Suns are trending after pouring in 33 points to seal a victorious return to Brooklyn.

The Suns won 136-120 over the Nets, as Durant shot 10 of 16 from the field and added eight assists in his first game in Brooklyn since being traded to Phoenix nearly a year ago.

Jusuf Nurkic had 28 with 11 rebounds, Devin Booker scored 22 points and Eric Gordon added 17 for the surging Suns.

The win at Barclays Center was the Suns' ninth win in 11 NBA games before they play the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night and the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

"We were just floating from two to three games under .500 and .500 for most of the year," Durant said after the game, per ESPN. 

"Now we look up, we're 28-20 with a good opportunity to be 10 games over .500 with our next two games on the road. 

"So, we're going home at the 50-game mark, hopefully we can be 30-20, and I like where we are. 

"It's a grind throughout the whole season, especially with the new group, new coaching staff, new team, guys in and out the lineup. You got to build some continuity, and we are on our way to that."

There was huge hype around Durant’s return to his former team, but Suns coach Frank Vogel was impressed by how he focused on the job at hand.

"Hell of a performance," said Vogel. "He put the team first.

"He went out and competed, played team-first basketball, had eight assists and several other plays where made the extra pass and allowed his teammates to play through his double-teams.

"He played a team-first type of game and ended up with 33 and eight."

Durant spent almost four years at Brooklyn, playing alongside James Harden and Kyrie Irving. But the stars only played 16 games together and the Nets won just one playoff series.

The two-time NBA champion gave his reflections on that time but said he did not ponder what might have been, instead focusing on the facts of his time in a Nets jersey.

Durant said: "No, I don’t think about what could have been, that's just a pointless exercise, in my opinion. What happened. That's what I thought about: what actually happened, the reality of it.

"We didn't have enough time together. That's just it. Guys wanted to go their separate ways. 

"We tried our hardest to salvage everything together. We had three or four different teams [from] when I signed here until when I left. 

"But at the end of the day, I enjoyed coming to work, playing for, being a part of this community and playing, representing Brooklyn; regardless of what went on, what was said or how I felt, I still came to work.

"I was an All-Star every year. I was the leading vote-getter every year in All-Star games. Sold a lot of jerseys. [Averaged] 50-40-90, averaged 30, [made] All-NBA. 

"I mean, was that successful? You know what I mean? But team success is a different thing.

"You'd like to put the team, how the team does, you'd like to put that on one of the best players and call it a failure, but if you want to talk about me individually, you can just look at the work that I put in here.

"I think I've grown as a player. I'm on my way to mastering the game. I think coming here helped me, pushed me far closer to that. So that's what I try to take from my time here."

The Nets played a tribute video for Durant before the game and he had a mixture of cheers and boos from the home crowd over the course of the night.

"That wasn't going to stop me from just doing my job regardless," Durant said about the video.

"But there's class people here. They appreciate everybody who donned the jersey and that shows a great organization. I respect that."

Cam Thomas scored 25 points and Mikal Bridges, who came to Brooklyn in the Durant trade, had 21 but the Nets (19-28) failed in their bid to win three straight for the first time since early December.

They next play at Philadelphia on Friday.

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