CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA (AP) – Kevin Durant feels a sense of comfort.
Durant scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting in his Suns debut, helping Phoenix snap the Charlotte Hornets’ five-game winning streak with a wire-to-wire 105-91 victory yesterday.
Devin Booker scored 37 points and Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 16 rebounds in the Suns’ seventh victory in 10 games. Chris Paul added 11 assists.
Durant, acquired in blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets on February 9, showed no lingering effects from a sprained right knee that kept him out of action for more than seven weeks. And the 34-year-old star fit in rather seamlessly with his new club, also grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots in 27 minutes.
“I feel like I fit in pretty well,” Durant said. “Everybody out there was trying to make me as comfortable as possible. I just have to keep riding it, man.”
Durant made two threes, a flurry of mid-range jumpers and showed he still has the burst to get to the hole on a driving left-handed layup for his first basket with the Suns.
He also provided a boost on defence, blocking Hornets rookie centre Mark Williams twice in the opening five minutes.
Suns coach Monty Williams said he doesn’t want Durant worrying about being a team leader, but rather just playing.
“I think there’s too many players in the NBA that get too much pressure to lead,” Williams said. “I just don’t think it’s necessary. It’s my job to lead. The players do it in spots, but that’s the one thing I told him, I said, ‘I’m not looking for you to lead. We just want you to be yourself and hoop’, and I think that’s where he’s the most free to be himself.”
Phoenix (34-29) entered the game in fourth place in the Western Conference standings, but could be poised for a strong finish with Durant anchoring what has the potential to be an explosive offence.
The Hornets played without LaMelo Ball, who underwent season-ending surgery yesterday to repair a fracture in his right ankle.