Kevin Durant is an emotional guy. Not in a volatile, loose-cannon kind of way, but in a quiet, sensitive, personally reflective kind of way. He felt pain when the the Thunder lost in the Finals in 2012, he felt pain when he couldn’t get them over the hump in the years that followed, and he felt pain when he was vilified for leaving Oklahoma City.
But with the NBA Finals upon us, he’s trying to put all of that behind him.
“Well, first of all, Kevin is a sensitive guy,” NBA.com writer Shaun Powell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s a nice guy, he’s very approachable for a superstar, sensitive guy, has known nothing but love from the public his entire life. (He) went to Texas and played under Rick Barnes for that one year and then had instant success in the NBA. He had known nothing but love. So when something like this happened, it was like a cold splash in the face for him, and he didn’t know how to handle it. All of a sudden, some foreign emotions to him in terms of bitterness and anger – emotions that really for much of his life stayed dormant – they came up because he felt stung by the backlash and it was uncomfortable for him.”
When Durant returned to Oklahoma City this season, he was booed mercilessly and called a cupcake.
“It was jarring,” Powell said. “So he has put up a wall – like a, ‘Hey, I don’t care anymore.’ He curses a lot whenever he talks about the backlash and social media and things like that.”
He also gets buckets. Durant has been one of the top players in the world for much of the last decade, but he’s played this season with a quiet rage and singular focus. He averaged 25.1 points and shot a career-best 53.7 percent from the floor during the regular season, and he’s averaging 25.2 points and shooting a career-best 55.6 percent in the playoffs.
“I would expect nothing less than his best in this series,” Powell said. “I’d be very surprised if he had a poor series – only because I think there’s a part of him that just really wants to lash out to everybody who thought that he was a traitor or took the easy way out leaving Oklahoma City.”
And, like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, he is seeking revenge against LeBron James, who beat Durant in the Finals in 2012.
“He thought he’d get another chance before now, but it’s been five years,” Powell said. “This has been his best shot – and really his only shot – at the Finals since losing that series.”
Durant figures to have several chances in the coming years. In fact, Jeff Van Gundy believes that the Warriors could reach eight to 10 Finals in a row. That number is a little high for Powell, but it’s not out of the question, either.
Heck, the Warriors just went 12-0 against the West.
“They’re a 1980s team,” Powell said. “I kind of put them with Magic’s lakers, Bird’s Celtics, even the Sixers with Doc (Dr. J). Even though they didn’t go to the Finals that many years in a row, you knew they were always there. Again, these guys are in their prime. Steph, Durant, Klay, Draymond – these guys are in their prime. It’s not like any of them is old and they’re on the downside. They have a lot of good years left. I think for the next six or seven years the Warriors are going to be right there. Now does that mean the Finals every year? No, but I’d be shocked if they don’t make the Western Conference Finals every year.”