CHICAGO — Kevin Durant is still adjusting to his new life as a member of the Phoenix Suns after two games, but a reunion with former teammate Kyrie Irving is on the horizon on the NBA calendar.
Durant and the Suns will travel to Dallas on Sunday afternoon to face off against Irving and the Dallas Mavericks. And while Durant acknowledged that game will be circled on the calendar for many, he played down feeling he felt something special in his first matchup against his former teammate.
“Just one more game,” Durant said after Friday’s 125-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. “I understand the entertainment aspect and a lot of people outside have the game circled on their calendars but only regularly scheduled programs for both teams. Back to work and see how you can get better as a unit.”
Durant and Irving signed alongside the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019, before both trades before the trade deadline last month. Irving requested a trade after talks stalled over a new deal with Brooklyn, and Durant was traded to Phoenix the following week, ending their four-year partnership as teammates.
Irving scored 40 points Thursday while Luka Doncic added 42 points and 12 assists to lead Dallas to victory, the Mavs’ second win in the pair’s six games together.
Afterwards, Irving said he was looking forward to facing Durant and described Sunday’s meeting as a “friendly competition.”
“I’m excited — to play the Suns, to play with KD against the new-look Suns,” Irving said. “I think it will be an exciting time for us to compete again. He’s my brother for life, but when we go out there I look forward to the competition, the friendly competition.”
Durant, who was playing only his second game since Jan. 8 after recovering from an MCL injury, shot 7 of 10 from the field on Friday for 20 points. The Suns improved to 2-0 that season with Durant on the ground, and after the game he insisted he was focused on improving chemistry with his new teammates rather than focusing on the upcoming matchup against Irving .
“We’ve played each other before, competed against each other before,” Durant said. “But that’s just the point [the Suns]. I’m sure they feel the same way. It’s about doing your best.”
So far, the Suns have done just that in the short time that Durant has been active.
Phoenix was +26 in the 20 minutes Durant and Suns star Devin Booker shared the floor on Friday, the best of any Suns duo, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. The Suns went 23-37 from the floor (62%), 12-of-20-of-3 and assisted 16 of their 23 baskets during that stretch.
“The most impressive thing is how he just lets the game come to him,” said Booker, who finished with 35 points in the top flight. “The way the carrier he is, how dynamic he is on both ends of the ball, he’s still just catching it in the flow of the game and making it come at him and making the right play for his teammates.”
Durant is still on his way back to his form after being sidelined with injury, but he took it twice and was excited when he checked the postgame box score after Friday’s game and found he played 31 minutes.
“It’s good to get a few minutes,” Durant said. “I think the best way to get going is to play. “I’m feeling good. I’m still figuring out offense and how my team needs me to be effective on both sides. I think I’m getting better with every game.”