Durant's emergence as leader took time

Durant's emergence as leader took time
April 23, 2013, 5:30 pm
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Kevin Durant is tired of being second

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant's been his team's leader since his rookie season out of Texas. As Red Nation watches James Harden adjust in his first year in a leading role for Houston, Durant talked about his adjustment to that role for the Thunder franchise. He says it took him years to perfect the proper mindset.

The forward was the second overall pick in 2007 by the Sonics. In his rookie season, he averaged 20.3 points, roughly seven points more than the next highest scorer. That year, Seattle only won 20 games.

"My first two years, it was all about trying to establish myself," said Durant, who finished second in the league in scoring. "Of course, you want a good team, but we were losing so much, I was trying to establish myself, but I was also trying to build something special here. Then my third year came around. We got James (Harden). We got Serge (Ibaka). Guys started to get better. I had to kind of change my mindset into more of a team, it's all-about-us type of deal. It's difficult, of course. It's a transition, but it was worth it."

Now, the franchise has progressed from happy to make the playoffs, to being a leading contender for an NBA championship.

"There definitely were growing pains," Durant said. "One thing I tried not to look at was just being the only guy, being the man, leaning on my teammates as much as I could. There are times where you find yourself losing confidence. It's a team sport. You're going to have your guys there supporting you no matter what. That's how I try to look at it. I never looked at myself as bigger than the team or scoring all the points. We're going to need to do this together. That's how I look at it."

"KD's a star," said his coach, Scott Brooks. "He's a star in how he handles himself on the court, how he handles himself off the court. The guy is a classy, classy individual that just commits to the team every day. I say this time and time again, but you don't get bored coaching KD, because he just brings everything he has. You take away his skill set, which is at a high level, but his work ethic: he works as if he's the guy trying to make the team. And his teammates appreciate that, and they understand his level of commitment of excellence is high and it's always about the team. And he's a great leader. He's worked on that for the last six years. It hasn't been overnight, but he's put himself in a position to be a great leader on and off the floor.

"It's firsthand knowledge," Brooks continued. "I see it every day. It's authentic. He's an authentic person and he lays everything on the line every night for his teammates. He's coachable. He's an excellent teammate. He has the respect from all his teammates and coaches and the organization and the fans. They appreciate how hard he works. He brings it every night. He's not always going to have a good shooting night, but his intentions are always about the team."

So while Durant may be getting more Tuesday acclaim for his Sports Illustrated article in which he says he's tired of being second in his basketball life from the age of 16, he seems clear on what it takes to be number one, at least for his team. And it's that type of knowledge that has the Thunder on a constant progression growing upward and onward to more NBA glory as a franchise.