How Kevin Durant, Suns made splash during Super Bowl week in Phoenix

Durant, one of the NBA’s best players, will join the Suns after four seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. The move surely will shake the balance in the NBA’s Western Conference.

While Durant won’t make his Suns debut until later this month due to a knee injury, news of his acquisition made waves as the NFL’s Super Bowl is in the Phoenix area this week before Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here’s what we know on Durant, the Suns, the Nets and how this trade overshadowed the NFL during Super Bowl week in Phoenix:

Kevin Durant trade between Suns and Nets

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Around 1 a.m. Thursday, the Suns and Nets struck a deal for Phoenix to acquire Durant and small forward T.J. Warren in exchange for three players and four future first-round picks, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports.

The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly until the deal is official.

The trade will pair Durant – a 13-time All-Star who won two NBA Finals MVPs with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018 – with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in Phoenix.

The Suns, who lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals in 2021, immediately become a legitimate contender once again for the Finals with Durant in the picture.

The Nets, who traded Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks one day earlier, received Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, and a pick swap in 2028 from the Suns for Durant.

How the Suns became front page news during Super Bowl week

Mat Ishbia hasn’t even been the Suns owner for a week.

Yet, Ishbia stacked all the Suns’ chips at the table and went all in with the Durant trade in his third day with the franchise.

Talk about making a splash.

Ishbia is a billionaire who owns United Wholesale Mortgage, and was a former walk-on basketball player under Tom Izzo at Michigan State from 1999-2002. He was just approved Monday by the NBA’s board of governors to acquire the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

According to ESPN, Ishbia directed general manager James Jones to initiate conversations with Nets general manager Sean Marks late Wednesday night. Shortly after, Ishbia and Nets owner Joe Tsai discussed the Durant trade.

The Super Bowl will have its day on Sunday, but Ishbia made sure his new team would shake up the sports world before the game.

Stephen A. Smith on Nets after Durant, Irving trades: ‘Disastrous’

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, during a visit with USA TODAY at radio row in Phoenix, did not hold back on his criticism of the Nets following their trades of Durant and Irving.

“It was a disastrous era,” Smith said. “It’s a stain and embarrassment on the career of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.”

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Smith also added some perspective of the Durant news coming during Super Bowl week in Phoenix.

“The NBA more than any other sport, has globalized its brand exceptionally well. But the trading deadline is [Thursday], so there’s a lot going on,” he said.

“When Kevin Durant gets traded to Phoenix and that automatically puts Phoenix as favorites in the Western Conference, you can’t ignore that. It’s a big story. He’s a superstar. Despite the fact that its Super Bowl week, it’s not the Super Bowl,” Smith added.

“If this happened Sunday, no one would be paying attention. But the game is Sunday and it’s Thursday, so everybody is talking about basketball.”

How will we remember Kevin Durant’s run with the Brooklyn Nets?

Durant and Irving joined the Nets in July 2019, followed by James Harden in early 2021. But the three players were unable to deliver on championship aspirations the Nets had in acquiring all three of them.

Together, they played 16 games, marking one of the most massive failures in NBA history.

The furthest the Nets reached in the playoffs during their run was the second round, when Durant’s infamous game-tying shot sent their Game 7 with the Bucks to overtime.

Durant’s foot was on the three-point line, sending the game to overtime, which they eventually lost 115-111. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks went on to beat the Suns in the 2020 NBA Finals.

After winning two championships with Steph Curry and the Warriors, Durant failed to win another with Irving and Harden in Brooklyn.

What’s next for Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns?

It’s time to win an NBA championship, which will be no easy task despite the Suns’ talent.

Durant, 34, has three more years left on his contract after this season – $46.4 million in 2023-24, $49.8 million in 2024-25 and $53.2 million in 2025-26. And if there’s any time for him to add another title to his résumé, it’s now.

Booker, 26, is a three-time All-Star. Ayton, 24, is a former No. 1 pick. Both young stars are entering their NBA primes. Suns coach Monty Williams, who won Coach of the Year last season, helped Phoenix reach the Finals. But Paul, who has the third-most assists in NBA history, is on the decline in his 18th season.

The Suns are fifth in the West, 8½ games behind the top-seeded Denver Nuggets. And they must navigate a loaded conference with the Memphis Grizzles, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers all among the top six seeds.

The defending champion Warriors, with Curry out with a knee injury, are ninth, just outside the playoff picture.

Follow Safid Deen on Twitter @safid_deen

This post appeared first on USA TODAY