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NBA Fact Or Fiction: What If Kevin Durant Sours On The Suns? | TheSportsDay NBA Fact Or Fiction: What If Kevin Durant Sours On The Suns? | TheSportsDay

NBA Fact or Fiction: What if Kevin Durant sours on the Suns?

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Each week during the 2023-24 NBA season, we will take a deeper dive into some of the league’s biggest storylines in an attempt to determine whether the trends are based more in fact or fiction moving forward.

[Last week: Are the 2023-24 Detroit Pistons the worst team ever to try?]

This week’s topic: Kevin Durant should go scorched earth on the Suns

The NBA has seen four Kevin Durants.

Kevin Durant, Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Statistics (641 games, nine seasons): 27.4 PTS (48/38/88), 7 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.2 STL, 1 BLK

  • Recognition: 2014 MVP; 2008 Rookie of the Year; seven-time All-Star (2012 ASG MVP); six-time All-NBA selection (5x First Team, 1x Second Team); four-time scoring champion; 50-40-90 club (2013)

  • Achievement: 2012 NBA Finalist; four conference finals appearances; 10 playoff series wins

The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2007, Durant joined the Seattle SuperSonics, a Pacific Northwest franchise with a rich history and a rabid fan base, and captured Rookie of the Year honors. He and the franchise moved to Oklahoma City the following year and spent the next eight seasons in one of the NBA’s smallest markets, leading the Thunder to four Western Conference finals, an appearance in the 2012 Finals and nearly another in 2016.

You could understand at the time why Durant wanted to explore other opportunities, and hindsight makes that even more clear. The Thunder parted with James Harden and failed to extract enough value in return for a future MVP. Russell Westbrook’s brand of basketball, also worthy of a future MVP, did not allow for the free-flowing style Durant felt could maximize both his abilities and the team’s pursuit of a championship.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 31: Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after dunking during the game against the Orlando Magic at Footprint Center on December 31, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 112-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 31: Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after dunking during the game against the Orlando Magic at Footprint Center on December 31, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 112-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
  • Statistics (208 games, three seasons): 25.8 PTS (52/38/88), 7.1 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.5 BLK

  • Recognition: Two-time NBA Finals MVP; three-time All-Star (2019 ASG MVP); three-time All-NBA selection (2x First Team, 1x Second Team)

  • Achievement: Two-time champion (2017, 2018); three-time NBA Finalist; 11 playoff series wins

So, Durant joined the Warriors, basketball nirvana back then — a 73-win roster that could deliver the opportunity to win a title every season for his foreseeable future in the Bay Area. His free-agency decision shifted the balance of power so significantly that we felt dismissive of the exercise for its excessiveness, and Durant did not help his image by trashing his former franchise, coach and teammates on Twitter.

Durant’s experience in Golden State delivered two championships and a third Finals appearance that ended in despair — a torn Achilles tendon that threatened his career. His eagerness to belong on the Warriors had already wavered, as he left a long-term extension unsigned and Draymond Green called him “a bitch” during a highly publicized confrontation. He was the outsider on Stephen Curry’s team.

  • Statistics (129 games, four seasons): 29 PTS (53/49/87), 7.1 REB, 5.8 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.2 BLK

  • Recognition: Two-time All-Star; 2022 second-team All-NBA selection

  • Achievement: One playoff series win

So, Durant left a team at the height of its profession for a more personal chance to build something anew, joining friend Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets. They recruited DeAndre Jordan, then Harden, and their symbiosis failed so spectacularly that two coaches lost jobs. Irving found controversy after controversy, Harden left, Durant delivered an ultimatum, Irving left, and the Nets finally caved to Durant’s latest desire.

Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns

  • Statistics (36 games, two seasons): 29 PTS (53/49/87), 6.3 REB, 5.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.2 BLK

  • Recognition: One-time All-Star; 50-40-90 club (2023)

  • Achievement: One playoff series win

So, Durant orchestrated his way to the Suns of Phoenix, because … it seemed cool? It was different? I don’t know. He had admired Devin Booker for years. Phoenix had been to the Finals two seasons earlier. The Suns offered Durant the chance to potentially play some fun basketball in a warm climate with some people he liked, and they could win a title together. That might mean more than winning a couple on Curry’s team.

Might.

What is the commonality between the four Durants? Unhappiness. At least in a basketball sense. I have tried to delve into the psychology of Kevin Durant on multiple occasions, and I am not going to do it again. He has played with at least eight other future Hall of Famers, perhaps as many as double digits, including friends in destinations of his choice, and somehow his career, as filled with accolades as it is, feels … unfulfilled.

And you know what the line that runs through your career is called? A legacy — something Durant said in March he does not “care about.” But he is a legend, and I do not know many that truly do not care about how they are remembered. I certainly do not know anyone who wants to be remembered for unhappiness.

Which is why it was so dispiriting to hear Adrian Wojnarowski’s report for ESPN on Christmas Day.

“You talk to people in Phoenix and around that organization, they can feel the frustration with Durant,” Wojnarowski said. “Part of that, certainly, is the missed games for Brad Beal. This team was built around those three stars. The underwhelming supporting cast that comes from those massive trades for Durant and Bradley Beal really gutted the organization and left them having to sign a lot of minimum players to fill out the payroll. … They lack the assets, the draft picks, the trade capital to go out and really improve this team. This is something they’re going to have to manage in Phoenix with Kevin Durant. You’ve seen it before.”

Durant responded, both on the court, where he averaged a 26-6-11 on 60/53/87 shooting splits in three straight wins (before straining his right hamstring on New Year’s Eve), and off, where he commented on the report via Instagram, “Woj says somebody else ‘feels’ that I’m frustrated and it turned into me being mentally checked out. This s*** crazy, these people can flat out lie on my name and make s*** up and you people will believe it but when my teammates n coaches speak on how I am as a teammate, u ignore it lol.”

I do not think many people believe Durant is a bad teammate. He has been undeniably incredible whenever he takes the floor, averaging 27.3 points per game on nearly 50/40/90 shooting for 16 seasons. No one else has appeared in more than 13 games and finished a career matching Durant’s field-goal percentage (50), 3-point percentage (38.7) and free-throw percentage (88.5); Durant has posted his numbers in 1,014 games. He is one of the 15 greatest players in the history of the sport, and we are not sure where to put his statue.

I also do think people can feel Durant’s behavior. We might be able to attribute one melodramatic move to a life stage, but this is a pattern. Westbrook felt scorned by him. Green felt so angry he confronted him about it. (We’ve talked about this, but one thing is clear: Green lets those feelings out.) Neither Harden nor Irving felt strongly enough to stick by Durant’s side. It is weird to talk about players’ feelings, but these we know.

And I fear one more trade request, one more soured landing spot, one more move rooted in unhappiness will make that his career’s defining characteristic, and that is not what anyone should want from a legend. Nobody wants to hear about how frustrated Durant is with his chosen teammates in Phoenix, just like nobody wanted to hear how frustrated he was with his chosen teammates in Golden State and Brooklyn.

Do not let this happen again. I do not want Durant to continue playing somewhere he is not happy, but he has tried changing everything around him. Maybe it is time to try finding comfort in the bed he has made.

It is not easy. Trust me. But sometimes you have to find joy in the hard things.

Determination: Fiction. Kevin Durant should not sour on the Suns.

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