PHOENIX — For the first time since last season’s Feb. 9 megatrade, the Nets will see their former superstar Kevin Durant, and ex-Suns Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson will return to Phoenix.
That seismic deal — coming in the wake of Kyrie Irving forcing his way out of Brooklyn — sent Durant to the Suns, changing the futures of two franchises and shifted the balance of power in the NBA.
And with the Nets playing Wednesday in Phoenix, it will not just be their reunion with their onetime franchise player — who sat out Tuesday night’s game versus Golden State with an ankle injury — but a return of Bridges and Johnson to the only NBA home they’d ever known before Brooklyn.
“Oh, I’m excited,” Johnson told The Post. “I’m excited. It’s appreciation you gain for a city and for the fans when you play there for a while. And as crazy as it is, you don’t know. That last game I played there, I didn’t know it’d be my last game in a Suns uniform. So it’ll be fun. It’ll be fun to have.”
That last game he referred to was a 32-point Phoenix loss to the visiting Hawks on Feb. 1, the final time Bridges and Johnson suited up at Footprint Center.
The Suns headed out on a road trip that included a Feb. 7 win in Brooklyn.
That proved to be the so-called “Twins” last game for Phoenix, finding out at the team hotel in the wee hours that they’d been dealt for Durant.
The two-time Finals MVP had tired of the inconsistency and upheaval in Brooklyn, convinced the Nets were too chaotic for him to win a third ring.
“In Brooklyn? Yeah, it just wasn’t no consistency, no continuity on who we were as a team,” Durant said recently when asked by The Post what had been the final straw. “And when you want to win a championship, you’ve got to build an identity from Day 1, and it was just a lot of circumstances that were out of the players’ control that got in the way of us building our continuity.
“But we all got better as individual players, and we learned a lot from that experience — everybody from executives to players — and we can go about our NBA experience with more knowledge now.
“[I learned] just how to work with people, just how to play in New York City, how to deal with injuries and lineup changes and coaching changes. You’ve got to keep playing, keep leading. It was a class on a lot of different things these last few years. If you didn’t take anything away from it, that’s just shame on you because it was so many deep lessons in this time [in Brooklyn].”
Now their paths intersect again. Bridges and Johnson may still be stinging after Monday’s loss in Sacramento, but their return to Phoenix, though a business trip, will be sweet.
“Yeah, excited. Just a lot of years there, a lot of friends there. A lot of fans through the whole journey. It’s going to be exciting,” Bridges said. “Obviously I’m not excited right now to talk about it, but when it comes, I will. But just get ready, main focus is to go out there and get a win.”
Bridges and Johnson made lots of friends in Phoenix, as well as lots of memories.
“Excitement, excitement. One, I liked the arena,” Johnson said. “Just going back to a place we have a lot of memories. The last game I played there, I didn’t know it’d be my last game. So it’s been a while since I played there. But it’s going to be a lot of fun, man. Those fans, they supported us really well my four years there.”
Arguably the best of those memories was their trip to the 2021 Finals.
“I’m going to say those Finals games that we won there,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty good feeling. The crowd was just going crazy that whole entire playoff run because the fans were just allowed back in the building. They were very ruckus.”