Thunder Finally Healthy Again And Ready To Get Started
By Randy Renner
Monday's Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day reminded me a little of that old Dean Martin song "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime," and on this day everybody we talked with loved what they've heard from Thunder head coach Billy Donovan and loved what they've seen from Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.
"He's a great basketball mind but even more so a better person," KD said of his new coach. "We've hit it off since the beginning and I'm excited to play for him. We've already built a great relationship and I know it's only gonna grow."
"I think (Kevin's) in great shape, I think he's fine," superstar Russell Westbrook said of Durant. "I've seen him over the summer, each week, a month, seeing him progress and get back to his normal self."
"Those two guys have a tremendous relationship and I think there's a great mutual respect and care for one another," Donovan said of Durant and Westbrook. "I think the biggest thing is to just allow those guys to be who they are."
There were times last season when neither Westbrook nor Durant was who they usually are.
Durant was hobbled all season, playing in just 27 games and even in those contests he really wasn't himself. Westbrook missed time too with a broken bone in his face. When he returned he played with an increased fire and determination and a shear will to win that almost got the Thunder into the playoffs and did get Westbrook into the conversation for the MVP Award.
Westbrook took on much more of the scoring load in trying to make up for Durant's absence but he says there won't be a problem getting back into sync with a guy who's been his teammate the entire time in Oklahoma City.
"It's easy, I mean we've been playing together for eight years, it's not rocket science," Westbrook pointed out. "My job is to find a way to help us win and Kevin, obviously with him being on the floor, makes it a lot easier for myself and everybody else on the floor."
Donovan has watched tape of every game the Thunder have played the last two seasons and probably even more by now. He knows what he has when KD and Russ are healthy and he doesn't plan to mess around with their dynamic.
"Russell is a very competitive, attacking point guard and I think that's what makes him special, what makes him great. So I don't think you wanna take that away from him and change who he is." Donovan said.
"For Kevin, I know he's very anxious to get back on the floor and start to play again because aside from playing pickup ball he hasn't really been out there in a competitive situation in quite some time so I wanna help him and put him in a situation where he can be effective and be who he is."
Right now Durant is ready to finally get back to the game he loves. There were times last season when frustration crept in and so did doubt as one surgery led to another and then to another. In between he tried to play some games but things never felt totally right.
Now though he is pain free and has been for a while. He was medically cleared several weeks ago even though the official word wasn't made public until just last week. And KD admits he was a little gun shy about getting back out on the court and going full speed until he was absolutely certain his foot was totally and completely healed and back good as new.
"No doubt, no doubt. You don't want to live in fear but I love the game so much so that if anything else were to happen again I have to live with it, so yeah I think if I would have went out there with doubt in my mind something would have happened."
Durant says he feels "great" and is "ready to go and get back out there with my teammates."
And from what his teammates have seen of him in some recent 5-on-5 pick-up games he not only feels great, he looks great.
"He's back to being KD," Mitch McGary said, "KD the MVP."