Kevin Durant & LeBron James – Playoff Rivals, Preseason Friends

In a few years time, the LeBron James – Kevin Durant duo might be one of the greatest individual rivalries in the history of the NBA, if we’ll get to see a few more Heat – Thunder Finals series. But there’s hatred or grudge off the court between these two, choosing to train together during the off season once again.

It’s not enough that the two players saw each other for two weeks during the NBA Finals. They had to spend half the entire summer together training and playing for the Olympic team, the 2012 version of the Dream Team, winning yet another gold medal. Now, instead of each going his seperate ways and dreaming about beating one another, the two go into what is nicknamed “Hell Week 2”, an intense week of training sessions together in Ohio.

It happened last year, and it was obviously beneficial for both players. James won his third regular season MVP (27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds,  6.2 assists) and the Finals MVP, winning his first NBA title (30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists in the playoffs). Kevin Durant averaged 28 points per game, leading the league in scoring for the third consecutive season. He averaged 28.5 during the postseason, making his first NBA finals.

The friendship and bond began last season, during the lockout. Durant ask James to work out together, joining the James summer program, devised by his personal trainer Mike Mancias.

Rivalry? Only a friendly one. Durant admitted it was hard for him to see James next to him everyday, as a teammate, training with Team USA before the Olympics, but he got over it pretty quickly, leading the star studded squad in scoring during their perfect run to a second consecutive gold medal. James happily took a step back to a point-forward role and let Durant carry the team with his scoring, including in the final win over Spain.

Sometimes, you just wish it would be a bit more intense. Maybe it still will be. After all, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had nothing but love for each other off the court, but everything about their rivalry in the 1980’s was as fierce as you would want from the two best teams in the NBA.

The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in that position at the moment, with the Thunder looking like a group that might reach multiple NBA finals in the next few years. As of now, the Heat look like the only ones in the East who can make it. Maybe after last year’s disappointment brewing through them, we’ll see a bit more nastiness from the Thunder and especially Durant, when they see James and his friends in the 2013 NBA finals.

The Lakers? People usually don’t need a whole lot of reasons hating on them, or their players. There’s plenty for everyone to find, even with someone like Steve Nash on that team.

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