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Phoenix Suns acquiring Kevin Durant in trade from Brooklyn

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – National Basketball Association superstar forward Kevin Durant is headed to the Phoenix Suns in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, US media reported on Wednesday.

The Nets were trading Durant and TJ Warren in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and four first-round draft picks, according to US outlets, including ESPN, which cited unnamed sources.

The blockbuster move, on the eve of the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday, follows Brooklyn’s trade of Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, after Irving requested a move.

It also comes on the same day that US billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia made his debut as the new owner of the Suns, promising that he was “not going to be sitting here counting the dollars. I’m going to look at how can we improve our team.”

Durant — a two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals Most Valuable Player and a former NBA regular-season MVP — had requested a trade in June, less than a year after he inked a four-year, $198 million contract extension with the Nets.

He had reportedly grown increasingly frustrated with the direction of the franchise, which was swept in the first round of last season’s playoffs despite having the star duo of Durant and Irving.

In August it became clear that Durant would remain in Brooklyn, but the club got off to a chaotic start this season.

They sacked head coach Steve Nash in November after a 1-5 start to the season.

Then Irving was suspended for eight games after a social media post publicizing a movie with anti-Semitic themes and declining to apologize.

Although the Nets fortunes had turned around under new coach Jacque Vaughn, Durant himself has been sidelined since 8 January because of a sprained ligament in his right knee.

On Tuesday, Vaughn told reporters that Durant “had a really good report” in his latest medical evaluation, although the team had offered no timeline on when he would return to the court.

Durant was averaging 29.7 points per game on 55.9 percent shooting, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game this season.

He was named an All-Star Game team captain as the top vote-getter in the Eastern Conference but will not be able to play in the game on 19 February.

Meanwhile, the mercurial Irving, who reportedly asked out of Brooklyn after failing to agree on a contract extension, made his Mavericks debut on Wednesday, scoring 24 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Durant and Irving both arrived in Brooklyn in 2019 aiming to form a “super team” along with James Harden — who was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers shortly before the trade deadline last year.

Amid injuries, controversies and simple lack of chemistry, Brooklyn’s “Big Three” project failed to see them advance past the second round of the playoffs.

Durant will now join veteran star Chris Paul and Devin Booker in Phoenix in a bid to claim the third championship ring of his career, after he won two with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018.

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