NBA Sunday: Durant’s Busy Schedule
Kevin Durant Stays Busy During the Lockout
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant found out about the recently canceled preseason games while filming his first movie, “Switch,” in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In it, Durant plays himself, and the plot involves him switching his hoops skills with a fan, who transforms into a star for his high school team while Durant and the Thunder struggle.
The film is fiction, obviously, but it will look twice as fictional if the actual Thunder don’t play any games in 2011-2012. Durant understands how serious such a thing would be.
“It’s scary. They canceled the first week of preseason games and training camp, and you really start to think, man, this thing is for real,” Durant told HOOPSWORLD. “But we’re going to stick together as a union of players and just hope that everything gets resolved.”
Like a lot of current players, Durant was just a kid when games were lost during the 1999 lockout, so it’s not like he can even look to the past as a means to avoiding a grim future.
“I didn’t really even know what was going on (in 1999),” Durant admitted. “I just hope that right now things won’t get that bad and we can come to an agreement. The game of basketball has been growing every year, especially NBA basketball, so to have that come to an abrupt stop is going to be tough, not only for the players but for the fans that watch on TV and come to the games to support us every night. Hopefully we’ll get it done for them.”
In the meantime, Durant has been keeping busy—with the film, obviously, but also with a ton of pick-up basketball. Through various summer leagues and playgrounds games, Durant has become one of the most respected players on the planet, not just because of his play in the NBA, but because he can apparently dominate any court he steps foot on.
“I would just walk around and ask people where the games were at, and then get out there and play them,” Durant said. “It wasn’t as planned, but I was just having fun being me and enjoying playing the game.
“I think the people scheduling those games just wanted to bring that flair and excitement back to basketball,” he added. “I think people are really enjoying it, especially now that the season might not be here. Watching some of the best players in the world play so close, it’s a lot like playing at the smaller colleges and high schools. It brings that excitement back, and it’s something I really enjoy doing.”
Players do face the risk of injury partaking in pickup games and exhibitions that are so competitive. Knowing that, why would someone as talented and valuable to his franchise put his health on the line just to play some seemingly meaningless ball?
“Any time you play you can get injured, but that’s the last thing you’ve got to be worried about,” Durant said. “We love playing the game, so we’re going to play it. You can get injured walking down the steps or walking across the street, but it’s gratifying for us and for the fans, and it’s very, very competitive. That’s what we need to get better.”
To get better, at least in the context of the Thunder, means to move past the Conference Finals next season and get a real shot to compete for a ring. Oklahoma City fell short in 2011, but Durant hopes 2012 will be a different story.
“We ended the season on a bad note losing the games we did, so hopefully we’ll regain some of that momentum when the season starts,” Durant said. “But I think we’ve been doing good with the workouts we’ve had this summer. Everybody’s been working out hard individually, so once we get back together I think we’ll be fine.”
Don’t mistake his positivity for contentedness, though. Durant hasn’t gotten over his team’s loss to the eventual NBA champions Dallas Mavericks. Months later, he’s still losing sleep over it.
“It stings. It does sting, because every time I get on Twitter people are talking about it,” he said. “But that just adds more fuel to the fire, and hopefully once we start playing again we’ll be better. I’ve been working hard, and I know everybody’s been working hard. We’ll be ready.”
The question now is when, exactly, Durant will be able to put that readiness into practice. The theatrical action the Thunder get in Warner Brothers’ “Switch” might be the only NBA burn they see the rest of 2011, and knowing how they ended the season, how close they got to establishing themselves as the best team in the Western Conference, that would be one of many tragedies coming at the expense of the lockout.
But Durant has proven that if he can’t play ball in OKC, he’ll find a way to play ball somewhere else and absolutely dominate while doing it.
A Long Summer for Kyrie Irving
While Kevin Durant seems to have played in about 90% of the basketball games played in the entire country over the course of the last four months, first overall pick in the 2011 draft Kyrie Irving has been the exact opposite. In order to give his foot ample time to heal in preparation of the 2011-2012 season (whenever that might be), Irving has been sitting out from summer league and pickup games.
So if he’s not playing basketball, what is he doing? So far, he’s treated the autumn like any other sophomore in college would. According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, Irving is currently enrolled in four classes at Duke University, is living in a rented off-campus house with friends, and still hasn’t signed a contract or collected a single NBA check. He’s even working out with some of his old Duke teammates, even though he obviously won’t be playing in games when the college season starts.
“I feel like I get the best of both worlds,” Irving told ESPN.com. “I get to work out with the team and I get to start my sophomore year and be on track to graduate in five years. I’m just a pro now.”
It must feel nice to get back to what feels normal, especially after not having played much basketball all last season, and then again for two full months over the summer.
“It was the hardest two months of my life,” Irving said. “It was hard to sit on the sidelines. Especially with the amount of exposure everyone was getting in playing in those pro-ams and being everywhere. That was different for me, not being able to work out and get better. Summertime is when my game has gone to a different level every year and that’s happened throughout my entire life. It was a learning experience.”
Now, however, he says he’s fully healthy and ready to roll, whenever the NBA gets back to business.
“I’m healthy,” Irving said. “I have my legs back.”
That’s good news for the Cleveland faithful, who are putting a lot of eggs in Kyrie’s basket. The last fourteen months have not been easy for the Cavaliers, and Kyrie Irving is the first truly positive thing their fans have had to enjoy since He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named bolted for South Beach.
Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait to see just how promising Irving really is, and in the meantime he’s just keep flying under the radar as the wealthiest sophomore on the Duke campus.
Soon, though, he’ll be the most adored athlete in Cleveland this side of Jim Thome. All we’ve got to do is settle this lockout thing. Once that’s done, Irving can officially put his psychology degree on hold and get back to what he was born to do.