That's just a fancy headline for a boring injury update ahead of Sunday's game between the New York Knicks (9-6) and the Phoenix Suns (10-6), but you have to aim for the stars (and the clicks, I guess).
Anyway, stay with me for a minute as Saturday's media availability was good for a bunch of quotable statements coming from both sides of this affair. Here's what we heard from Tarrytown and other New York places on Saturday.
Kevin Durant set to return, play at MSG once and for all
As ridiculous as it sounds, Durant has only played basketball inside the walls of Madison Square Garden a couple of times since his final game at MSG playing for the Warriors all the way back in Oct. 2018.
The last two times he did so, Durant graced the Mecca clad in Brooklyn Nets gear once in 2021 (January 13th) and for the last time on April 6th of last year.
Although there was a slim chance of KD missing on visiting MSG to cap the weekend, that’s never going to happen with Durant thirsty for some New York blood.
KD missed last Friday’s game between the Suns and the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, but he’s set to make a comeback on Sunday to face the Knicks at MSG having already practiced on Saturday at the NBPA facilities in midtown Manhattan.
“I went through my individual workout,” Durant told reporters post-practice, per Duane Rankin of azcentral.
“Feels better—a little tweak. Just wanted to make sure everything was right before I get back out there,” Durant said. “We’ll see (if he plays on Sunday). It’s getting better each day.”
The Suns won’t have Bradley Beal (back) available against the Knicks, having already ruled him out for Sunday along with Damion Lee (knee).
Devin Booker and Durant, however, are ready to go and lead the Suns’ efforts on the road today. Drew Eubanks (ankle) is “probable” to play, and Tuta Watanabe (quad) is listed as “questionable” for Sunday as well as Durant.
On a final note, KD was asked about his trade request to the Suns earlier this year, revealing he wanted to move on from Brooklyn in the summer of 2022 but the Nets “refused to get rid of“ him before last season’s trade deadline.
“I wasn’t going to miss no games because of this whole thing,” Durant said, “so once the season rolled around, I was just like ‘whatever happens, it happens, and I just get ready for the season’.”
Knicks planning for Suns with-and-without Durant, Jalen Brunson ready to go
The media present at the practice of the Suns yesterday captured Durant hoisting some shots, moving around nicely, and ultimately (almost) declaring himself fit to play come Sunday’s tip-off.
Around 25 miles up north, the Knicks were holding their own practice on Saturday in their Tarrytown facilities while getting ready to face another stout opponent in the revamped Suns.
With Bradley Beal out Sunday and Kevin Durant questionable (but most definitely playing), head coach Tom Thibodeau discussed his game plan 24 hours from tip-off.
“They’re loaded,” Thibs summarized. “The shooting that they have around them puts a lot of pressure on you at all times so we’re gonna have to be at our best.
“You have to commit to working together. You’ve gotta be tied together, everyone working together. You’ve got to anticipate, you’ve gotta think ahead, and then you’ve gotta fly around, and then you’ve gotta finish it with the challenge and the rebound,” Thibodeau said, “so it’s a lot and they’ve got a number of guys that can go off the dribble too.
“That puts pressure on you in a different way.”
The Suns feature four players (Eric Gordon, Devin Booker, Grayson Allen, and Durant) currently nailing more than two 3-point shots per game, and three more dudes (Beal, Watanabe, and Jordan Goodwin) scoring at least one long-range shot a pop.
With the exception of Drew Eubanks (0.1), all Suns players getting more than 14 MPG of run this season are scoring 0.6+ three-point shots while hoisting no fewer than 1.8 of them.
The Knicks, for comparison's sake, have the same amount (four) of players scoring two 3-point shots per game but their big men are non-factors on that front, and Evan Fournier (New York’s best marksman) sitting daily.
Donte DiVincenzo agreed with Thibs, saying “If [Durant] plays or doesn’t play, they’re still a great team—they have great shooters around those guys.
“They have a really good system over there and they have guys that come in off the bench that play extremely hard,” DDV added.
Jalen's turn.— The Strickland (@TheStrickland) November 25, 2023
He lulls Jimmy to sleep with a little hesitation before getting to his spot using his stronghold. The Heat's enforces flies over and only gets Brunson's shoulder. Brunson the warrior stays in in the game. pic.twitter.com/DJgNVtJV27
Finally, Thibodeau provided a positive update on the availability of Jalen Brunson for Sunday after he seemed to suffer some sort of injury to his shoulder in the game against Miami last Friday.
“[Brunson] went through practice,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t know what [the] medical [team] will say, but he went through practice, he did his shooting, did his whole routine.
“Unless something flares up tonight, I anticipate him being ready, added Thibs. “It’s not only his physical toughness, it’s probably more his mental toughness. He never takes days off.”
Knicks vs. Suns, tip-off at 6 ET on Sunday inside MSG to revenue-fight a saucy slate of NFL games. Don’t miss the former, second-screen (if anything) the latter.