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Kevin Durant overcomes nerves in Phoenix debut

Suns fans finally got to see Durant in action after February’s blockbuster trade.

PHOENIX — Fans in Phoenix have been waiting seven weeks to see Suns forward Kevin Durant play, but an MCL sprain and an ankle injury kept him off his home court. Durant, who was traded from Brooklyn to Phoenix in February, was slated to make his Footprint Center debut back on March 8 but ended up being a late scratch after rolling his ankle during pregame warmups.

The injury forced Durant to miss 10 contests, but he was able to help the Suns to a 107-100 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in his first game in Phoenix as a starter for the Suns. 

Even some of the all-time greats experience pregame jitters and KD admitted as much after playing his first game in front of his new home crowd on Wednesday night.

“I was just saying to the guys in the locker room that it was hard for me to get sleep today and it was hard for me to stop thinking about the game. Sometimes you can want it too bad, and you come out there and you start rushing or being uncharacteristic,” Durant said following Wednesday’s game. “I’m glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m into the zone of playing again and being around the guys and being one of the guys. Just keep building from here.”

Though the Suns improved to 4-0 with Durant in the lineup, the Slim Reaper struggled to get his shots to fall in his home debut, going 5-of-18 from the field and finishing with 16 points, four assists and eight rebounds. 

Suns head coach Monty Williams was mic’d up during Wednesday’s game and ESPN cameras captured him giving KD a pep talk that’s since gone viral. The bond between Williams and Durant has been maintained since their time together with the Oklahoma City Thunder and, as it turns out, KD isn’t the only person who still gets nervous for a game.

“I just think that’s part of being in this business. You should see my armpits during a game! You wouldn’t want to, it’s not a pretty sight… but I think when guys are nervous and anxious and all of those emotions, it speaks to how much you care,” Williams said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just learned to admit it: you’re afraid every game. That’s why we have the phrase ‘reps remove doubt’ because when you put the work in, sometimes that can trump the fear. I wish it trumped all of it, but I think we all have a level of nerves every game."

The Suns have just six regular season games left to tighten things up before the Playoffs. Phoenix will host the Denver Nuggets for a nationally televised game on Friday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m.

Follow the conversation with Lina Washington on Twitter: @LWashingtonTV. If you have a sports story idea, e-mail Lina at LWashington@12News.com.

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