From the bomb to the destination: Durant, Paul and the lost ring of the Suns

Few such big earthquakes we have seen in the NBA: Kevin Durant’s arrival at the Phoenix Suns has shaken the North American competition, has changed the rules of the game and has influenced the dynamics of both Conferences. It’s what we’ve always called a bombshell, a real one in this case considering that just a few days earlier Kyrie Irving hadn’t even applied for a trade and the Nets were a team trying to survive until Durant returned from his knee injury. but that he was doing well in the East (32-22 at that time, in fourth place) and was leaving behind the controversies and scandal of the beginning of the season. In the end, it was the latest earthquake that has once again led us to criticize and misunderstand both stars, which generate an amount of uncertainty that is only comparable to the well-known talent they have shown on the track, but which has made us forget off-road. she. That’s how they are, beings capable of the best and the worst. Two men who repel and fall in love at the same time. Two generational players, but two bombastic heads. More one than the other, but both in a difficult way to analyze. Two tightrope walkers of ambiguity.

Now, After three and a half seasons and 1,314 days, Kyrie and Durant have parted ways. The point guard, responsible for having provoked the situation when things seemed to be going, finally, moderately well, He is part of Luka Doncic’s Mavericks. But it is the forward who has taken the main course, both he and the team that has been the recipient of his immeasurable talent: the Suns. The Arizona team, a desert landscape outside the big cities, bordering (among other areas) New Mexico and sharing an arid climate with predominant heat and little rainfall. Of course, a weather far removed from what Durant has lived in New York, the cradle of the traditional American bourgeoisie, a social class that has grown and now belongs to a show business similar to the one we can find in Hollywood. From one of the largest markets, to one of the smallest. From one place to another. A change that supposes the fourth team of the NBA for Durantbut that generates a lot of hope… and, of course, some doubt.

The Nets, let’s remember, after parting with Kyrie, did the same with Durant, who headed to Arizona along with TJ Warren and in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first rounds without protection (2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029) and the right to trade, if the Nets want, from the first round of 2028. AndIt was, at that precise moment, one of the great transfers in the entire history of the NBA. A transformative operation. revolutionary. Colossal. Pharaonic. And a fantastic move from the Suns’ front office, which in the process has kept the bigwigs on their roster. To all of them: Chris Paul, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. A knock on the table from James Jones, General Manager, and Mat Ishbia, the new owner who replaced the stingy Robert Sarver; both always kept Bridges as the central axis of the operation and thus avoided having to transfer their great stars.

A team in need

The Suns needed, this is it, to do something to improve their situation. The franchise has improved to 31-27 and is now in fifth place in the Western Conference, but its season was being very weak: the players’ connection to Monty Williams’ speech was non-existent, the issues with DeAndre Ayton have not been resolved, the rotation is short, there have been a lot of injuries and Chris Paul, on his way to 38, is having what is objectively the worst season of his career. He finds it difficult to defend, suffers in lateral movements, plays slower, does not produce as much and continues to have a huge number of physical problems, a very typical trend that has accompanied him since time immemorial. All this as a whole forced the Suns to do something if they did not want the project formed in 2020 and that he stepped on the Finals in 2021 he will keep that lost opportunity as his only memory. And with the movement they also demonstrate a commitment: they go for the ring.

The team that Monty Williams leads in a questionable way is, at this point in the season (and before the debut of Kevin Durant, who will also miss the All Star), ninth worst in points per game and worst in shooting percentage from two. He has an obvious problem when it comes to producing baskets and Monty’s insistence not to feed Ayton many more balls has been a constant trend that has worsened with the injuries to Booker and Paul, the latter in an absolutely phantasmagorical version of what has been. A very poor situation for an entity that was close to winning the ring, without luck, in 1976, 1993 (with Charles Barkley and company) and in 2021. And that he didn’t even make it to the Finals with Steve Nash, an absolute legend and an idol in the city. Three missed opportunities and the feeling that the dissolution of his last great project was close and that everything had been for nothing. That that 2-0 against the Bucks that they were driving in 2021 was the missed opportunity. But this is what the NBA has. A competition that, if you move in that fine line that keeps you in the fight, allows you to become a candidate in a few hours.

A fit, a priori, perfect

Durant is a unique, magical, mystical player. Touched by a magic wand. Potentially one of the best in history, as well as an extraordinary, enormous scorer. Indefensible, with an enviable physique, a suspension that allows him to stay, or that is the feeling, in the air longer than the rest of the mortals. And that he has a good fit, first of all, in any type of team and situation: in the Thunder he played with and without the ball, in the Warriors he improved in defense and had to focus on another role and in the Nets the assessment is more complicated, but He has also had the ball in his hands for a long time. Able to develop the catch and shootof shooting in the race, penetrating, posting and with a notable improvement compared to the beginning of his career in passing and rebounding, Durant is a total basketball playerone of those few stars that you watch for a few minutes and end up convinced that he was born to play basketball. And already, with two rings and a huge number of individual awards, a true active legend… that could have been much more. Both arguments are not exclusive.

Durant is averaging 29.7 points per game this season, with which his mere presence will replace the 17.2 averaged by Mikal Bridges and the 13.9 (above 45% in triples) by Cam Johnson. Almost the same data for two players as for only one, a star who shoots close to 56% in shots, including 37.6% in triples, who goes to 6.7 rebounds and who distributes 5.3 assists. He will form as a forward quintet, in theory, with Chris Paul (base), Devin Booker (guard), TJ Warren (who came with Durant from the Nets and can occupy the position of power forward) and DeAndre Ayton (center) . A rotation in which Cameron Payne (who has also suffered physical problems), Torrey Craig or Dario Saric remains, and to which they have also added Terrence Ross, a very useful product, microwave and a great shooter who has finally finished his time in Orlando (buyout and signing by the Suns)where he dedicated himself to scoring points and watch life go byand is now in a team with which he can opt for the ring.

Now come the few doubts that exist: how will the Suns play? And we won’t figure them out until after the All Star, when Durant is included in the rotation. The star has already played alongside Chris Paul and Devin Booker at various stages with the United States national team, but never in the NBA.. We will see how much time Durant has on the ball, what is the difference compared to the two stars (very mobile and decisive even without the ball in their hands), how is the relationship with Monty Williams, if the coach will use the pick and roll between forward and DeAndre Ayton (he already does it with Paul) or if the center will lose his role, greater than in the last playoffs. A priori, the Suns become a fearsome team, with absolute talents in an attack in which they will have unlimited resources. Now, we are talking about the same team (by name, not by squad) that ended up in a seventh game for shame a few months ago in the Western semifinals and that he has had unexpected physical problems and inexplicable drops in level. For now, the important thing is the declaration of intent, the demonstration that they are going for everything. After all, a fictitious but very wise woman already said it: “In the game of thrones it is only worth winning or dying. There are no intermediate points”.

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