Kevin Durant Finding All-Star Swagger
Last week the NBA announced 1,345,566 votes were cast for Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, thereby securing his place as a starter on the 2012 Western Conference All-Star team. As the numbers go, Durant received the most votes for the forward position in the Western Conference. A distant second in forwards was the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin (876,451 votes). Overall, Durant was second only to Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in conference voting (who nabbed 1,555,479 votes).
“To to see that many votes he had compared to the next forward, it was a great thing,” Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s a great, great thing (to be voted by) the fan base especially, you know, starting here and expanding across the world.”
Durant is no stranger to the All-Star Weekend festivities. In 2010 – his third season in the NBA – he was named an All-Star reserve. He was voted an All-Star starter last year. He’s also logged time in the Rookie-Sophomore game and is the reigning back-to-back H-O-R-S-E champion.
“I feel like a vet now, to be honest,” said Durant, a wide grin spreading across his face. “It was an exciting feeling when I got that call.”
If he had been keeping track of the voting, he may not have been too surprised. Final confirmation, however, inevitably gave him a special feeling.
“You’ve got to be thrilled when something like that happens, regardless if you know it’s coming or not,” shared Westbrook.
“(I’m) just blessed that I got this opportunity, blessed the fans voted me in, so I’m going to do my best to represent,” Durant said.
He still sees this honor as a privilege, as opposed to any kind of right among the league’s top players.
“You’ve got to go through so much in this league, and to be voted as one of the top players in this conference means a lot,” said 23-year-old Durant, who is averaging 27.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 three-pointers per game thus far.
“It’s a stepping stone for me; hopefully I get to be a part of it for years to come. Right now I’m just going to enjoy it,” he added.
“It just shows how much work is been putting in and how the organization, fans, everybody recognizes him as one of the best players in the league,” fellow Thunder Daequan Cook told us. “It’s a great accomplishment.”
Cook said Durant was especially thrilled with the All-Star nod, “knowing that us guys always come out and support him.”
The All-Star distinction, of course, goes to individual players, but Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks believes it represents much more.
“Kevin knows that he can’t have success without the guys that we have around him (like) Russell finding Kevin shots, Nick (Collison) and Perk (Kendrick Perkins) setting incredible screens and Thabo (Sefolosha), what he does. Kevin realizes that the team really helps him become a very good player in this league.
“I think it’s great. Kevin is well-deserved of that award. I think it represents the entire team,” said Brooks.
“He’s had success the last three years; he knows that when you have success, everybody gets rewarded,” he continued. “Russell was an All-Star last year. He has a good chance of being one this year.”
Westbrook, who finished fifth among guards in All-Star voting this year in the Western Conference – just behind Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash – may be facing a similar fate when the reserves are announced later this week. The reserve players are voted in by the league’s 30 head coaches.
Brooks may need to make plans himself to head east to Orlando for All-Star Weekend. Keep in mind the West All-Star coach is determined by whichever team has the best record through February 15th. The Thunder’s record of 19-5 presently puts them in first place in the Western Conference.
Brooks doesn’t sound particularly enchanted with the idea of coaching at All-Star Weekend.
“I haven’t even thought it,” Brooks said about the very real prospect. “Nothing to be said. I’m glad that Kevin is a starter, and we’ll see what happens next week.”
It’s clear Brooks and his star player have developed a close relationship through the years.
“I love him,” Brooks told us. “I love what he’s about. He’s coachable. He wants to be coached. He doesn’t want you to soften things up, he wants you to tell him the truth and coach him hard. He’s a special, special kid.
“Can’t say enough good things about him.”
In keeping with his spirited sense of humor, he did tell reporters to, henceforth, address him Mr. Coach of the Month. Brooks was recently named the NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month for games played in December and January.
Whether or not Westbrook or Brooks makes the All-Star cut, Durant will be there – along with Griffin, Bryant, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum making up the starting five – for the All-Star game on Sunday, February 26th in Orlando.
Westbrook agreed that fans voting in this particular West lineup is pretty wild.
“They did it like that. L.A. starting lineup.”
Not quite, but it’s close. Durant is the lone Western Conference starter not on a Los Angeles roster.