Because he was back home for business, Kevin Durant actually enjoyed having the Oklahoma City Thunder in Washington for less than 24 hours, on the second end of a back-to-back. A short visit means fewer distractions, limited commitments and just enough time for hugs and handshakes with family members and close friends before hopping on a plane after the game.
Durant said he needed about 100 tickets to accommodate his loved ones, but he wasn’t complaining about making such an expensive commitment. “I’m very fortunate and blessed to come back here and play. Every part of D.C. is embedded into my heart,” Durant said before losing to the Wizards at Verizon Center for the third year in a row, 96-81. “It’s a great day for me to come back here. I get to see my family, my friends. I haven’t seen them in a long, long time. In this league, you miss all the big holidays and birthdays. It’s going to be good to see them.”
Durant left Seat Pleasant nearly eight years ago to attend Texas, but the community has clung to him even stronger as he makes a steady climb up the NBA hierarchy by winning scoring titles and gold medals and leading a perennial championship contender.
His success and constant representation of his home town – either through a curly W tattoo or regularly wearing Redskins gear – has led to local fans to fantasize about Durant wearing the jersey of the team that he used to take the green line to Gallery Place to watch play at MCI Center. But Durant doesn’t share those thoughts about playing for the Wizards.
“I just told you I had to buy 100 tickets. I spent a lot of money on tickets. Imagine if I played here,” Durant said with a laugh. “I don’t even want to think about that. I haven’t given it any thought, playing up here. I love Oklahoma City. I love coming here and visiting.”
Durant will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016 and John Wall has stated that he’s already made subtle pitches to the former All-Met player of the year from Montrose Christian about teaming up in Washington.
Wall and Durant both work out in Los Angeles with trainer Rob McClanaghan and have grown close over the past few years. Durant was thrilled that Wall was finally able to make his first all-star team.
“He’s learned a lot from the point guard position,” Durant said of Wall. “First of all, he has a lot on his shoulders, to be a guy to resurrect the Wizards. For a number one pick, there is a lot of pressure and he’s doing a great job. John is like my brother and I spent a lot of time with him this summer. He worked his tail off, so he’s deserving of an all-star nod and he’s playing tremendous basketball right now. Just his overall game, his jump shot is getting better. He’s being more of a leader. You can see it, just watching TV that he’s grown.”
Durant got to witness that evolution first-hand on Saturday, when Wall overcame a 0-for-7 first half to score 15 of his 17 points in the second half. Wall also finished with 15 assists, coming within one of matching his career high.
“He got the ball in his hands a lot and he’s a good passer. He’s quick. Whenever he’s got the ball in his hands he controls the game,” Durant said. “He controlled the game. He hit some shots in the second half and with an All-Star point guard like that who has the ball in his hands the whole game, he should have 15 assists.”
Durant added that the obvious difference in Wall is “his confidence. His playing making, just running the team. He’s feeling more confident with this team. He’s got a good group in the guys he has around him. [Bradley] Beal, Nene, Trevor Ariza, [Marcin] Gortat. They got a great team. He feels confident with his guys and he’s putting them in position to succeed.”
Durant still doesn’t have any explanation for his failures at Verizon Center. He has gone just 2-5 in his career in Washington while averaging 28.4 points on 67 for 140 (47.9 percent) shooting. “Losses happen in this league,” Durant said after scoring 26 points on 8 of 21 shooting on Saturday. “Of course, you would love to win every game but when we come here, we tend to lose.”