Phoenix’s Brandon Knight on the future of the Suns, NBA

Naveen Ganglani
Phoenix’s Brandon Knight on the future of the Suns, NBA

Mikel Panlilio

Knight sees a good future for his team in the NBA and doesn't criticize Kevin Durant for moving to the Warriors

MANILA, Philippines – Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight is in Manila for this year’s NBA Fit program taking place throughout the week. During his visit, the incoming sixth-year player out of Kentucky went to the NBA Cafe on Monday, July 18, to promote the event and talk to the media about a wide range of topics.

The 24-year-old Knight has also played for two other teams – Detroit and Milwaukee – but has yet to make the NBA Playoffs in his career. Selected eighth overall by the Pistons in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Miami, Florida native had the best season of his career in 2015-2016, averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.9 rebounds a game.

On the Suns

Knight is part of Phoenix’s nucleus which has 10 guys who are at least 25-years-old or younger. Although the Suns finished with a 23-59 record last season – the fourth worst in the NBA – the franchise figures to have a bright future with its collection of young and talented prospects who can develop into stars or be trade assets for already-established stars.

To complement the youthful pieces, Suns management has filled out the roster with well-respected veterans.

“We’re definitely a very young team right now but we got a lot of older veterans coming in that have had success winning championships. We already have Tyson [Chandler] there. We got [Leandro] Barbosa – we just signed him. We’ve got Jared Dudley coming back,” said Knight.

“So we got a good mix of players, a good group of character guys that are going to come together. Our goal is to be better and to make the playoffs and to really do some real nice things this year. [We want to] have a successful year, so we’re looking forward to doing that.”

The Suns haven’t made the NBA postseason since 2010 when they went to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. That was when Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire were still playing for Phoenix. 

Outside of Knight, who still has 4 years and $56.5 million left on his contract, Phoenix’s roster has Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker (All-Rookie 1st Team last season), Alex Len, T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin, and the recently drafted Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis.

On the support from Phoenix

Phoenix has been one of the more popular franchises of the league throughout NBA history. In the 90s, Suns fans enjoyed the prime of NBA legend Charles Barkley’s career, which included a trip to the Finals against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1993. 

A decade later, Phoenix had one of the most exciting shows the association has ever seen with Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash’s 7-seconds-or-less offense. Also powered by Stoudemire, who was one of the league’s best and most athletic big men, Phoenix made numerous trips to the playoffs in the second half of the 2000s, including 3 trips to the conference finals.

“I think we definitely know – especially the people that have played in Phoenix – you know the history and how much the fans support a team that’s energized and a team that’s goal-driven and really looking to make some noise and really be a powerhouse team in the NBA,” said Knight. 

The Phoenix point guard is aware that winning can change the narrative and build more interest in a city’s NBA team. The Suns haven’t experienced a lot of that in recent years, but Knight is hopeful the franchise is building towards that goal.

“We know how much the fans come out – especially when the team is doing well. We’re trying to make sure we get that buzz back in Phoenix and we’re slowly working on that. We think as we continue to grow with a young team and we get the young guys in there we’re going to get Phoenix to where it has been,” he said.

“We know that the fans – we have great fans. If you’re there, you should know that. It’s just for us to have the type of team where the rest of the NBA and the rest of the world sees how much the fans love and support the team.”

On Kevin Durant joining the Warriors and the move’s impact on the NBA

Becoming competitive is a goal Phoenix is getting closer to, but becoming a powerhouse playoff team – perhaps even a championship contender – is another discussion. Even if the Suns do accelerate their process and step into the most elite circle of the NBA, it’s tough to see how they can dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference any time soon.

A WARRIOR. Kevin Durant (middle) enters the next stage of his career with another franchise. File photo by Thearon W. Henderson / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Golden State may have lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but the team still won a record-breaking 73 regular season games after winning the NBA championship a season prior, and was up 3-1 in the title round before a suspension to Draymond Green sparked the team’s downfall.

Still, the Warriors accomplished so much with Harrison Barnes and his inconsistent shooting starting at small forward. Now, the team gets a former NBA MVP and arguably the best offensive player in the world today in Kevin Durant to form a super team unlike anything seen before in the league.

The Durant decision has been met by scrutiny. A lot hate that one of the league’s best players joined his conference rival instead of trying to beat them, while many like that Durant made the decision he feels will best help him win his first NBA championship. Nash is part of the latter group, and you can count Knight in there too.

“He did whatever he thought was best and like I said, for me, I’m never going to fault a man for doing what he thinks is going to be best for his career. That’s what he thought was best, so I think everybody should have the freedom to choose where they want to go, wherever they think is going to help their career, and help them win a championship,” he said.

“Teams now just have to find a way to compete and that’s what teams have been doing, trying to make certain moves, trying to make strategic moves to make sure they’re still competing.”

Knight noted that despite Golden State forming what seems like an invincible team, it doesn’t guarantee a championship. For comparison’s sake, it took both LeBron’s super teams in Miami and Cleveland a year of losing in the Finals before winning a title the following season.

“Even in Golden State, just because they added Kevin Durant, it doesn’t mean they win the championship. They lost a lot of key bench guys, a lot of key players. They still have to find chemistry and make sure their team is just as good as they’ve been,” he said.

With regards to the shift in power in the West, Knight believes it will stay the same.

“Kevin Durant was already in the West [with Oklahoma City], so it’s not like he changed teams and made a bad team, a good team. He went to a great team already, so I don’t think he changed the landscape. The West was already a tough conference, so I don’t think it makes the conference any tougher.

“We’re going to see a lot of teams continue to get better, make some changes, and it’s going to be an exciting year of basketball,” added Knight. –

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