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Kevin Durant Scores 63 Points In Bittersweet Return To Seattle

Kevin Durant’s final moments as a Seattle Supersonic played out like this: a mid-range jumper for a go-ahead bucket, and a fast break lay-up to help seal a 99-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. The sequence, interrupted by a missed three by Seattle native Jason Terry (who I, to this day, want to believe missed the wide open shot intentionally), was a sign of things to come, especially with Durant pumping the crowd up for the most rousing “Save Our Sonics” chant of those final months in KeyArena.

Turns out, five years would pass before Durant suited up for a game in Seattle again. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though (although not on the part of some dimwitted politicians). Durant had originally been scheduled to make his return in December of 2011, but a sudden end to the NBA lockout turned that game (also sponsored by Jamal Crawford) into another cruel tease for Seattle NBA fans. This past weekend, nothing would get in the way of the reunion a half-decade in the making.

Crawford is, as a friend of mine appropriately declared Sunday, “The Basketball Mayor of Seattle”. While some might argue that the actual mayor, Mike McGinn, holds that title after what he pulled a few weeks back, there’s no arguing against Crawford holding the crown as the greatest local ambassador for the NBA in Seattle. Crawford’s Seattle Basketball Pro-Am is a tournament that features games almost every weekend throughout July and August. While rosters are almost entirely comprised of greater-Seattle high school and college talent (former talent, that is), you never know who might show up — like Tyreke Evans.

Evans was a surprise addition to the league’s All-Star Weekend earlier this month — Durant’s appearance on Sunday was anything but. Crawford had made an announcement in July that Durant was confirmed to participate — it was just a matter of when. Then, late Friday night, Crawford tweeted that Durant would be playing in the 4 pm game on Sunday, the third game of the day. Durant put any thoughts of it being another tease to rest by immediately confirming his participation.

My day began a little after 10 am, when I arrived at Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion. I was somewhere between the 15th and 20th person in line. By 11 am, the line was 100 deep. By the time doors opened at noon, the line had turned the corner and spilled down the block, easily ballooning to more than 200. At 3 pm, the doors were closed for good — nobody allowed in, and if you left, no re-entry. The whole time, I was dreading late starts. I had a wedding reception to attend at 6 pm, so if games ran long (or were delayed), all my waiting around would be for naught. Fortunately, Jamal runs a tight ship. As such, a few minutes past 4 pm, this happened.

Look, I get it, it’s summer league. It’s glorified street ball. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean anything. But Durant walking onto the court meant a great deal to NBA-starved Sonics fans, who showered their former star with love as if he was still their own. With about five minutes to go in the game, and the score 123-119 (Defense? What defense?), Crawford took an officials’ time out (hey, it’s his show, he can do whatever he wants), and acknowledged that Durant’s participation was all his own doing. Durant had asked to participate, paid his own way there, and showed even more love to Seattle after it was all over.

 

I can guarantee you there’s at least one person not enjoying Sunday’s love fest: Clayton Ike Bennett. The same Clayton Bennett who kept Durant hidden from all media his entire rookie season, in hopes of striking Durant from Northwest sports fans’ collective conscience (go ahead, find one interview of Durant on local Seattle sports radio during the 2007-08 season — you won’t, because it doesn’t exist). If there’s one part of his master plan to torpedo good will towards the Sonics that failed, it was the silly attempt at turning fans against his future superstar.

Of course, Bennett can still sleep tight, knowing he’s the owner of the hottest young franchise in the NBA. But, my Spidey Sense tells me there’s more to this appearance than meets the eye. Durant has taken on a new persona compared to a year ago. He’s experienced the harsh realities of the NBA business (at the very least, felt the weight of the business decisions of his own front office). Going forward, if Durant’s Scrooge McDuck owner prefers nightly swan dives into piles of cash (rather than spending it), then an outing such as this, in a city where Bennett is reviled to a nearly-unattainable degree, will be the least of everyone’s worries down in OKC.

Anyway, here are some other random thoughts from the day at Royal Brougham:

  • The following statement is 100% factual: I’ve never seen a Thunder jersey in Seattle — not on a person, not on a mannequin, not on a store rack. In fact, the only times I’d ever seen a Thunder jersey in person was 1) when I spent a few days at LA Live, and the Thunder were playing the Clippers at Staples Center, and 2) at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. I was convinced they didn’t exist around here…until today. I’m not saying there was a lot of Blue and Orange, but it was noticeable. Which means we have some turncoats among us, and they must be stopped.
  • A real question I overheard a kid behind me ask: “Do you think Nate Robinson has more money than everyone in this entire gym, combined?” These are the things one ponders while Nate Robinson is standing at half court, watching his other four teammates make a half-hearted attempt at playing defense.
  • Speaking of which, if you think Nate Robinson is a black hole on defense in the NBA, you should check him out in summer league (again, what defense?). But still…yikes! He joined his team after halftime of Game 1, and they played even worse, and ultimately lost. He is also the most popular guy in the building. That is, until Kevin Durant enters said building.
  • Spencer Hawes’ 58-point summer high scoring output didn’t make it through the weekend. I believe I had that.
  • Poor Justin Dentmon (ex-Washington Husky, former D-League MVP)  wanted no part of the electrifying Isaiah Thomas (also ex-Husky, and current Sacramento King) in Game 2. Dentmon responded to IT’s poor man’s Derrick Rose act with cringe-worthy off-balance threes. And that’s why some guys are in the NBA, and some guys, well, aren’t.

[Ballislife]