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Kevin Durant on his arrival in Phoenix: ‘I could feel the excitement as soon as I got off the plane’

<i>Matt York/AP</i><br/>Kevin Durant has praised the Phoenix Suns fans for the warm welcome he has received since arriving.
Matt York/AP
Kevin Durant has praised the Phoenix Suns fans for the warm welcome he has received since arriving.

By Matias Grez, CNN

Kevin Durant is raring to go in Phoenix.

Speaking to the assembled media for the first time since his blockbuster trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Suns, the 34-year-old lauded the fans for the reception he has received.

Durant is yet to appear in a game for Phoenix as he continues his recovery from a knee injury, but has been pictured practicing in the gym and is expected to make his debut after the All-Star break.

According to the NBA, around 3,000 fans turned up to the Suns’ Footprint Center on Thursday afternoon for the press conference, with many of them already wearing Durant’s No. 35 jersey.

“I truly don’t think I deserve all this because I know I’ve done a lot of good things in basketball, but I haven’t done them yet in a Suns jersey,” he told reporters. “I’m looking forward to doing it so I want to go out there and do the most I can and be the best that I can everyday for you guys.

“So I appreciate the warm welcome, but I got more work to do.

“I could feel the excitement as soon as I got off the plane,” he added. “Everywhere I’ve been so far, fans have been giving me a warm welcome, but I still feel like I got to prove myself everyday. They set a high standard for the players here.”

Durant’s tumultuous four years in Brooklyn came to an end at the trade deadline in a four-team deal that saw Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and a host of picks sent to the Nets in exchange for the 13-time All Star.

Prior to Durant’s arrival, the Suns were already considered championship contenders with a core of Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, having reached the NBA Finals in 2021 where they lost in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Suns have never won an NBA championship, losing in the Finals in 1976, 1993 and 2021, and new owner Mat Ishbia will be hoping Durant’s arrival can end that barren run.

“I see the culture started to change,” Durant said of his new team. “The way they played on the floor and the energy they played with started to change. I always loved playing here in Phoenix. The fans always showed love to good basketball in general.

“They always cheered their fans on but they show love to the opposing team as well, so I knew this would be a good place to play and a great place to continue to get better as a player. … I’m excited I’m here and looking forward to adding as much as I can to the group already.

“Like I said, they built themselves up and built structure and infrastructure for themselves already and I’m looking forward to adding to it.”

Durant’s goal in Phoenix is clear: help the Suns win an NBA championship and add to the two rings he has from his time with the Golden State Warriors.

“That’s why we play the game of basketball,” he said. “I’m more concerned about what we do every day as a team, the stuff you guys don’t see. I think that’s what really brings championships and puts us in a position to win championships.

“I know how significant a championship is to a franchise, to a city. I’ve been a part of two of those and I’m looking forward to get back on that road to try to do it again.

“This fan base is looking forward to cheering for a winner, so I want to go out there and prove every night we have a chance to win.”

After his move to Brooklyn from Golden State, Durant was joined by superstars Kyrie Irving and James Harden as the Nets put together a superteam with the hopes of winning a championship.

However, a host of issues hampered the trio in Brooklyn as they managed a paltry 16 games together in their time with the franchise, which will likely be looked upon by fans as an enormous failure.

Despite those problems, Durant spoke highly of his time with the Nets.

“Everybody there, we tried our hardest every day, regardless of what was going on in the media, what was going on with our teammates, everybody who was in that gym, we grinded,” he said.

“So I love those guys, I get emotional talking about it, because that was a special four years of my career. Coming off an Achilles [tear], they helped me through a lot.

“It was terrible how some stuff went down, but at the end of the day, I love the grind and we all love the grind there in Brooklyn and I wish them the best going forward. They have a bright future.”

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