SEATTLE — As quickly as he awoke from his pre-game afternoon nap, Warriors ahead Kevin Durant skilled one thing that he had by no means felt throughout his 11-year NBA profession. He began feeling anxious.
“I was just nervous,” Durant stated. “I never felt that way going into a game, especially a preseason game.”
This was not simply any preseason recreation, although. Positive, the ultimate rating indicated the Warriors breezed via a 122-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors (1-1) showcased their superiority over the Kings (1-2), even with All-Stars Stephen Curry (private causes) and Draymond Inexperienced (sore left knee) staying sidelined. The importance turned a lot deeper, although.
The rationale: Durant would return to Seattle for the primary time since enjoying there as a rookie about 11 years in the past. These followers would see an NBA recreation at Key Area for the primary time because the former Sonics franchise moved to Oklahoma Metropolis following Durant’s rookie season. When the Warriors and Kings introduced this recreation in February, tickets bought out inside 4 hours for an area that holds a capability of 17,074 followers.
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“That’s what tonight is about,” stated Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who sported a Seattle Supersonics T-shirt. “Kevin represents the last season of the Sonics and hopefully the return someday, however that happens.”
Subsequently, Durant needed to make the whole lot particular. His gestures. His speech. His efficiency. Every little thing.
Durant acquired his want. He completed with a team-leading 26 factors whereas capturing 10-of-19 from the sector and 2-of-5 from Three-point vary. He added seven assists and 6 blocks. He has already collected two NBA championships, two Finals MVP and a regular-season MVP. Durant even stated his newest efficiency “ranked pretty high” in his profession.
“It was cool to come back in a different light as a veteran, champion and MVP,” Durant stated. “It was cool to feel that love.”
Earlier than Durant felt that love, although, he felt uneasy. When the Warriors pulled into the loading dock at Key Area, the 30-year-old Durant mentally traveled again in time to his 19-year-old self.
“Definitely a different feeling into the arena and down into the ramp that I used to take,” Durant stated. “It brings back memories.”
As quickly Durant entered the world, he created extra reminiscences. A few of which solely fueled the adrenaline rush much more.
Followers shouted with approval when Durant arrived for pre-game warmups sporting Sonic-colored inexperienced Nikes. Then, Durant confirmed off what partly led to him profitable the NBA’s Rookie of the Yr award. He confirmed off his exact footwork, whereas sinking mid-range jumpers everywhere in the courtroom. Throughout that point, Sonics followers chanted Durant’s identify.
“It was a crazy feeling to come out and feel that much love from the fanbase,” Durant stated.
Durant continued feeling extra love. Shortly after his pre-game routine, Durant noticed a devoted Sonics fan behind the basket that he nonetheless acknowledged. His identify is Massive Lo’, whom Durant referred to as “a true authentic fan.” Durant nonetheless remembered Huge Lo’ from when met the Sonics on the airport and at group occasions. Subsequently, Durant gave him a hug.
“He told me he missed me, loved me and I’m one of the greatest ever!” Durant shared. So Durant responded together with his personal sentiments. “Man, That’s what I feel about you,” Durant informed Huge Lo.’ “You’re a real basketball fan and a real basketball junkie. I appreciate that.”
Durant then expressed his appreciation for extra Sonics followers that sat close to the doorway tunnel.
He went there and signed autographs for all types of memorabilia. Sonics and Warriors T-Shirts. Durant jerseys each with Seattle and Golden State. Basketballs. He stored signing all of these gadgets. Durant then posed for footage and made small speak with followers. Certainly one of them knowledgeable Durant he was a 16-year-old teenager that attended Sonics video games his rookie season. The fan added, “I miss you man! You better get that 3-peat!”
Kevin Durant catching up with a longtime Sonics fan pic.twitter.com/xjs2nXvorL
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Moments later, Durant then embraced former NBA participant and longtime pal Spencer Hawes, who performed towards Durant in the AAU circuit and sometimes frolicked with him in Seattle his rookie season.
After catching up, Hawes provided some recommendation Durant concerning the upcoming recreation.
“It’s going to be loud,” Hawes informed Durant. “Be prepared for it.”
That turned an understatement. With each gesture and motion he made, Durant heard a welcoming roar.
Throughout beginning lineup introductions, the world scoreboard confirmed highlights of Durant’s rookie season with the Sonics. Then when the PA announcer spoke his identify throughout lineup introductions, Durant walked on the courtroom and took off his sweats. He sported a throw-back Shawn Kemp jersey over his Warriors uniform.
“That was awesome. It brought chills,” Kerr stated. “The crowd was going nuts.”
So was Durant, who had contacted Mitchell & Ness for a throwback Sonics jersey earlier in the week. He then stored the plan secret, even from his teammates. As soon as everybody noticed the gesture, Durant addressed the gang. With WNBA star Sue Hen in attendance, Durant credited the Seattle Storm for profitable the WNBA championship. He then thanked the Seattle followers and expressed sympathy for being starved of an NBA group for the previous 10 years. Durant then provided hope an NBA staff would return quickly.
“To honor one of the past legends of the game, a Sonic legend was pretty cool. To address the crowd and hear them so loud and enthused for the game of basketball, it was breathtaking,” Durant stated. “I’m not big into the surprises and all that stuff. But I thought it would be cool if I honored one of the past legends. I thought the fans would enjoy it and they did. I’m glad it played out that way. It worked out well.”
It labored out just a little too properly.
“It did not feel like a preseason game,” saod Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who had 30 factors on 10-of-15 capturing. “You could almost touch the energy with your hands. It was so fun.”
It was additionally nerve-wracking. Durant twitched repeatedly in the course of the nationwide anthem. As quickly as Durant touched the ball, followers cheered loudly. They waited excitedly for him to carry out a spotlight reel. As an alternative, Durant spent the primary quarter lacking three of his first 4 photographs.
“I didn’t feel like I was in the game until the second quarter,” Durant stated. “I’m used to coming into games and playing and blending in with everybody on the court. I felt like everything about me was definitely weird.”
So Durant merely adopted the recommendation he stated he would have given to his rookie self. The suggestions: “Enjoy the moment. Stop thinking so much and go have some fun.”
So, Durant had some enjoyable.
He drove for a baseline dunk. He swished a deep Three-pointer. He sank a pull-up jumper. He carried out a crossover earlier than making one other pull-up jumper.
He closed the first-half with a two-handed dunk in transition. He opened the second half with a hammer right-handed dunk. He transformed on a financial institution shot. He threw a lob to middle Damian Jones that Kerr referred to as “the play of the game.”
So as soon as Durant went to the bench with Three:54 left in the third quarter, Durant waved to the cheerful crowd that stored cheering him for a job properly finished.
“The amazing thing with Kevin is even on a night like that where you think he’s not on tonight, you look down at the stat sheet, he ends up with 26 points,” Kerr stated. “He always finds a way to get it going.”
Durant discovered the suitable time to get going.
For a metropolis whose franchise left for Oklahoma Metropolis, Durant assuaged some frustrations by offering a present. In flip, these followers welcomed him like an in depth pal that merely had been out of city for some time.
In between Durant’s efficiency, the sport offered a platform to honor the previous Sonics franchise. The world performed highlights of the 1996 NBA Finals between Chicago and Seattle. Then, Gary Payton and Detlef Shrempf have been honored. The Sonics’ 1979 NBA championship staff additionally was honored with former coach Lenny Wilkens and former participant Jack Sikma in attendance. Among the many others in attendance: Warriors president and former Sonics ballboy and public relations official Rick Welts, Corridor-of-Famer Invoice Russell, NBA free agent and Seattle native Jamal Crawford, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Earlier on Friday, the Seahawks invited the Warriors to their follow facility. They accepted as an alternative of getting a morning shootaround. The Warriors sat in on the Seahawks’ assembly earlier than enjoying some toss soccer.
“I feel proud of the intelligence it takes to become a professional football player and a coach. There’s just so much detail,” Durant stated. “We learned a lot. We were very inspired by the approach to the game and approach to practice.”
Durant additionally appeared impressed with the gang help.
It was the sort of environment that Durant stated he remembered his rookie season, regardless of the circumstances. Then, the Sonics completed with a 20-62 document and confronted uncertainty if proprietor Clay Bennett would transfer the franchise to Oklahoma Metropolis.
“It was definitely a weird season as far as the relationship with the organization and fans go,” Durant stated. “But once the ball was tipped, every fan understood what was important with the basketball being played on the floor. I can’t wait for a team to come here and call this city their home.”
For now, Durant helped present slightly sneak preview. It immediately acquired rave evaluations.
“The message was sent over there the last 11 years,” Durant stated. “There’s still support for the Sonics in NBA arenas around the country and the world. So many people know what the Sonics culture is. That’s something the NBA can’t ignore. Tonight was the cherry on top.”
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