It’s been three weeks since the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in game 5 of the NBA finals, and Kevin Durant is now practicing with LeBron James, preparing with the 2012 version of the USA dream team, heading into the Olympic Games in London. Needless to say, he finds the whole situation a bit… uncomfortable.
Both players spent a lot of time during the series guarding each other. Before the Finals began, and actually after Game 1 as well, it was a legitimate debate and discussion to have – Who’s the best player in the series, in the NBA and in the world? LeBron James or Kevin Durant? The regular season MVP did go to James, but the Finals was up for grabs.
The numbers after 5 games? James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists, finishing the series with a 121-106 win and a triple double to close out his crowning achievement. Durant was good, but not exceptional. He averaged 30.6 points per game, but you felt that he lost the individual battle as well as the bigger cause.
And it’s not that James and Durant aren’t good friends. Not BFFs, but there was never any problem with their relationship. Durant even got invited by James last summer for some training in Ohio. James even waited with the post game celebrations, hugging and saying a few choice words in Durant’s ear before finally letting go and basking in the moment he waited for all his life.
Still, despite all that, it isn’t easy for KD - He’s my teammate now. I’m a team player. I can’t let that affect this. This is bigger than that. It’s tough to lose in the Finals and play the guy you’ve been going up against for five games who beat you. So me, I’m just going to get over it, still be a great teammate, come out and play hard.
James? He perfectly understands, saying that if he had to practice with Tyson Chandler right after the 2011 NBA Finals he wouldn’t have felt too comfortable with the situation as well - I bet it bothers him and Russell (Westbrook), you know, they probably don’t want to hear about it. It would bother me, it would bother anyone that you lose to someone in the Finals, where everyone’s competing at the highest level and you want to win and then you have to team up with them not too long, not too far removed from the games.
There’s usually a bit more time for players to digest painful Finals losses before Olympic summers, but the lockout shortened the period between the last game (June 22) to the opening of training camp (July 6). The weirdness for Durant doesn’t end here, after being the big star on the 2010 team that won the title at the FIBA World Championships. This time, he’s in the background with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the leaders and more vocal players on the roster.
I wanted to win so bad. I wanted to win for the city, I wanted to win for of course our team, myself, I wanted to win for so many people man, you kind of feel like you let them down just a little bit. So, learning process, man. I guess you’ve got to go through that to get better, so hopefully it helps us as a team. Hopefully we get a chance to get back there one day.