Everybody knows Kevin Durant’s worth even — or, perhaps, especially — in this day and age of pace and space. It doesn’t matter that he’s an old 34, with an injury history that would be a black mark for players with lesser caliber. His unique skill set makes him an invaluable asset for any team, and if there’s anything his championship years with the Warriors showed, it’s that he can be at his finest no matter where he is situated. Given his status as an unparalleled offensive force, he can literally take any shot and it would be a good one. And yet he has proven to be a perfect team player as well — unselfish with the ball and, more often than not, able to make the right play at the right time. As he himself argued, he just wants to hoop.
Which, in a nutshell, is why Durant cannot but be deemed a godsend for the Suns. The reigning two-time Pacific Division champions aren’t exactly wallowing in mud; were the regular season to end today, they’d be in line for homecourt advantage in the first round. In the highly competitive Western Conference, however, they know they need help if they want to return to the Finals and improve on their bridesmaid finish in the 2020-21 season. And he’s perfect in his new digs, with another All-Star in Devin Booker to backstop him and a supporting cast that boasts of continuity.
Take the Suns’ match the other day. It was just Durant’s second in purple and Orange, and still it seemed as if he had already been with them for a while. As in his debut two nights before, there was no wasted motion during his time on the court. And when the battlesmoke cleared, he did not coincidentally wound up with a heady plus-24 in 31 minutes on the court; he took a mere 10 shots to make 20 points, and his stat line included nine caroms, six dimes, and a swat and a swipe. In other words, he had a typically efficient outing. Never mind that Booker had 14 more field goal attempts, or that fellow starter Josh Okogie, normally quiet insofar as point-producing is concerned, eclipsed his total by five.
Needless to say, Durant was glad to have been part of a victorious stand. And even as he’s two of two with his new teammates, he’s notably looking forward to more successes. Naturally, he’s casting moist eyes on the hardware. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have done so much in this league so far. But it’s about how we come together as a group, and I think this is a tight-knit group, a tightknit organization. We’ll figure it out along the way.” Put simply, he understands the work they have to put in, and is confident of their capacity to do so en route to meeting their ultimate objective.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.