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RISING SUNS

‘Every time I step on the floor people expect me and the team I’m on to do great things.’

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Kevin Durant believes the Phoenix Suns have been transformed into National Basketball Association title contenders following his recent blockbuster trade from the Brooklyn Nets.

The 34-year-old superstar joined Phoenix last week in a stunning move that has reignited the Suns’ hopes of finally winning their first NBA championship.

Durant, who is currently on the mend from a knee injury, was greeted by around 3,000 fans on Thursday at a press conference at his team’s home venue ahead of their game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player said he believed that the Suns were now ready to challenge for the title, citing the experience of head coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones, a three-time NBA champion as a player.

“I think we got all the pieces to be successful,” Durant said.

“We got guys that have experienced what it’s like to play in that final round. We got a champion (Jones) already that’s overseeing us. Monty’s a champion as a coach.”

“So, we got guys that been there and that’s half the battle, just knowing what it takes.”

Durant added that he relishes the pressure that has accompanied his high-profile move to Arizona.

“I know there’s pressure because I’m one of the best players to ever play the game,” he said.

“Every time I step on the floor people expect me and the team I’m on to do great things.”

“I could feel the excitement as soon as I got off the plane. Everywhere I’ve been so far the fans have given me a warm welcome. But I still feel like I’ve got to prove myself every day.”

“(The fans) set a high standard for the players here, and I can tell how dedicated they are to the team.”

“There’s a high standard set every night for each player and I want to reach that every day.”

Durant meanwhile reflected on his largely unsuccessful stint in Brooklyn, where the Nets’ hopes of building a “Big Three” around him, Kyrie Irving and James Harden flopped.

The trio only played 16 games together.

“We just didn’t get on the court enough,” Durant said.

“I think when you’ve seen James, Kyrie and myself, it was amazing basketball for 16 games, but in order for you to win a championship and be a great team, you just need more time on the floor.”

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