Hear straight from the superstar forward and future Hall of Famer about his move to The Valley, evaluating his time with the Nets, and what’s in store alongside Booker and CP3.
On a Thursday afternoon in downtown Phoenix, fans filled up the Footprint Center not for a game or a practice, but for Kevin Durant’s introductory press conference just over a week after the Phoenix Suns acquired the two-time NBA Finals MVP and 13-time All-Star.
Fans exuberantly chanted his name in the arena as thousands from around the world live-streamed the presser on social media as Durant answered questions flanked by new team governor Mat Ishbia and President of Basketball Operations James Jones. Following the event, Durant spoke exclusively with his Boardroom brethren about what attracted him to the Suns, playing with Devin Booker and Chris Paul, summing up his tenure in Brooklyn, and what it would mean to bring Phoenix its first-ever NBA championship.
After wearing No. 7 over his four years with the Brooklyn Nets, Durant is back to wearing his customary 35 — part of that is because the No. 7 he wore in Kings County is retired in Phoenix in honor of longtime point guard Kevin Johnson, but he noted that 35 reminds him fondly of a different stage of his career. Now, the Prince George’s County, Maryland native gets to return to his original digits as he gets settled in The Valley to play for a franchise that he says has really impressed him over the last several years through its ability to construct a championship-level infrastructure.
“The organization has grown leaps and bounds in terms of its presence in the community, the brand of basketball they play, the people they hired to run the day-to-day,” Durant told us. “I felt that that stepped up from when I was first in the league. They also have some familiar faces that I know over here and worked with before, so I could tell what the structure was going to be like. I had an opportunity to make a move and I thought it was the right one.”
A major part of that infrastructure is Booker, a perennial All-Star and someone Durant admires in terms of both his offensive efficiency and how he utilizes different parts of the floor.
“I can probably provide him a little bit more space than he’s used to with my shooting ability,” Durant said. “And I see a lot of games. He gets double-teamed a lot, especially off the small forward, which is the position I played. So, I can help provide him a little bit more space, which would make him even more efficient, and vice versa. I played against a lot of double teams as well with the Nets, so having another shooter out there at the wing position can help me, too.”
Booker’s backcourt teammate Paul will join a list of superstar, future Hall of Fame point guards Durant has played with throughout his career, including Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving — but CP3 is different from any legendary point guard KD’s teamed up with in that he’s not a score-first player, but rather opts to control the pace of a game by other means.
“I think CP is looking to get the assist more than he’s looking to get the bucket,” Durant said. “When he has to score, he will, but he’s trying to look for other guys first instead of shooting. I’m looking forward to seeing how that works. I’m used to scoring point guards and I know how to play off them, so I have to take some time to adapt to that, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Off the court, Phoenix provides another city and surrounding region for the business of 35V — the company that operates the website you’re reading — to expand, as well as another fan base to get behind Durant and what he’s building. What he’s building will now include Ishbia, who said he believes a special relationship could blossom between the pair. The longer the new governor (and former Michigan State hooper) is around, Durant said, the more their bond will build, and his passion for the team will always allow him to look for new, innovative ways to make an exciting core even better.
Durant said he’s looking forward to networking and seeing what the region can offer off the court from a business and investment perspective, but that Boardroom and 35V will always remain New York City operations.
“I feel like I’m always going to be a New Yorker through and through,” he said, “because that’s where our home base is for our company.”
Looking back at his time playing in the Five Boroughs, KD acknowledges that while his run did not yield his third NBA title, but his outlook was never a zero-sum binary of championship or bust. Rather, there are real positives to take away from a good few years of growth.
“I didn’t set out to accomplish anything, to be honest. I didn’t expect anything but to go out there and work hard as I could every day and see what happens,” he said of his Nets tenure. “Nothing came from it as far as a championship is concerned, but I got better as a player. I put some good stuff on the film, you know what I’m saying? And I feel like a lot of my teammates did the same. It didn’t result in the golden ball at the end, but only one team can win that. Is everybody a failure if only one team can win? So I don’t look at it that way. I felt like we all got better individually. It didn’t come together as a team, but we all learned some things.”
Over the last two weeks, Kyrie Irving’s trade from Brooklyn to Dallas and Durant’s trade to Phoenix shook up the NBA in ways we didn’t expect to be possible even one short year ago. With so much money involved and so much at stake in the league, he said he’s never really surprised by anything that happens in the NBA nowadays.
“I’m excited that we can move around like this in the league and make it more exciting for fans,” he said, “and the playoffs will be even more fun with better teams, so it just makes for a better year and better storylines.”
With a team led by Durant, Booker, Paul, and young center Deandre Ayton, Phoenix will be one of the toughest of tough outs when the postseason begins in April. The veteran trio now leads a large group of current Suns players that reached the NBA Finals two seasons ago only to fall to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. With that in mind, KD noted what he takes with him from his championship runs with the Golden State Warriors that can help those players get over the hump, and it all starts with attention to detail.
Yes, you need a talented roster; Jones has already put one of those together in Phoenix in no uncertain terms. Then, it’s on head coach Monty Williams to put his players in the right position to succeed and keep the team on the same page — especially defensively, the progress on which Durant has noticed.
“It’s on me to come in and not fuck up what they’ve done, basically,” KD said. “I think stamina is what separates the great teams. But it comes down to all of us staying on the same page on both ends of the floor and then having that stamina, wanting to be efficient every possession until July.”
Asked if he envisions finishing his career in Phoenix, Durant said he couldn’t tell the future, but said he feels like he can play the rest of his contract with the Suns — he’s in the first year of a four-year, $196 million max deal — and then go from there.
“I’m having a good time in the moment, and I can see myself being here for the rest of my career,” he said. “But who knows? I said the same thing about Brooklyn.”
Having won two titles, Durant knows how much a title means and how enormously significant it is to a city and its fans, especially one that hasn’t won one before like Phoenix. It also brings bragging rights to the fans against opposing fan bases, and Durant is dead-set on experiencing that championship feeling at least one more time in his iconic career.
“Hopefully, we get there,” he said, “but I don’t even like talking about championships, because none of that means anything. If you’re going to put the work in today, tomorrow, and then the next day, and we keep stacking those up, that’s when we get there.”
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