The Phoenix Suns expect superstar Kevin Durant to make his team debut on Wednesday in a road contest against the Charlotte Hornets.
Durant, whom Phoenix acquired from the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline, has not played since spraining his MCL on Jan. 8. He traveled with the Suns on their current four-game road trip, and the team confirmed Tuesday that Durant intends to play against the Hornets.
“It’s been a long time. I was having fun out there before I got injured, so looking forward to going out there and picking up where I left off,” Durant told reporters Tuesday. “I know it ain’t gonna be that smooth. I know it’s gonna take me some time to get used to everything early on, but as far as just having fun and just getting lost in the game, I’m looking forward to doing that again.”
The 13-time NBA All-Star and two-time Finals MVP was averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 39 games before his injury.
Phoenix has lost two of its last three games after winning five of six. It opened its road trip Sunday with a 104-101 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks.
Devin Booker scored more than 20 points in four of six games in February since returning from five-week absence due to a groin injury. Josh Okogie has provided Phoenix with 18.5 points per game across the last six games.
Forward T.J. Warren, who was part of the Durant trade, hasn’t played the past two games for Phoenix. Playing time could become more complicated when Durant suits up.
“To play him, you’ve got to bump somebody out,” Williams said. “We feel we have a decent rhythm. … Pretty soon we’re going to get Kevin and that’s going to knock somebody else out. You can’t play everybody.”
The Hornets have been buzzing right along during a five-game winning streak, but now they’ll have to deal with a lineup adjustment amid their best stretch of the season.
Point guard LaMelo Ball is out after suffering a fractured right ankle Monday night.
“It’s tough, too, because he was starting to play so well, and the team obviously was playing better and better,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “They’re not going to wait for us. They’re going to keep score Wednesday night, too, so we’ve got to be thinking about the things that matter.”
Ball, who had scored 18 points on six 3-pointers, went out after suffering a noncontact injury in the third quarter of a 117-106 win against the Detroit Pistons. The medical results later seemed to catch everybody off-guard when it was revealed that he sustained a fracture.
The Hornets are likely to plug in Dennis Smith Jr. into the starting point guard slot. Smith had a team-high seven assists Monday night.
Ball, who has missed nearly half of the team’s games already with injuries, averages a team-leading 23.3 points per game.
“I feel like we were starting to figure some stuff out a little bit and then another injury,” Hornets forward Gordon Hayward said. “Certainly, disappointing and tough for him, tough for our team. The most important thing when you are injured is to be able to stay positive and have a good support system around you.”
After Ball, backcourt mate Terry Rozier’s 21.4 points per game is tops for the Hornets.
The Suns pounded Charlotte 128-97 for a Jan. 24 home victory.
–Field Level Media