The youngest scoring champion in NBA history couldn't buy a bucket at the end of last season.
Kevin Durant had taken flight as a 21-year-old, averaging 30.1 points and winning half-a-hundred regular-season games, but he crash-landed during Game 6 in the opening round against the world champion Los Angeles Lakers.
What transpired in Oklahoma City on April 30, 2010, has gnawed at Durant. Actually, the entire series against the Lakers has.
In the 95-94 elimination loss to the Lakers, Durant shot 5 for 23 for the field (.217), which qualified as the third-worst shooting performance in the playoffs for someone with at least 20 field-goal attempts, behind New Jersey's Kenyon Martin (.130) against San Antonio in the 2003 Finals and Philadelphia's Paul Arizin (.182) against Boston in the 1962 Eastern Division finals.
The entire Thunder team struggled to make shots against the Lakers at 39.1 percent for the series, but Durant was the one who repeatedly threw himself under the bus, shouldering the blame. Many OKC players were barely out of college — many still could have been in college — and the Lakers were heavy favorites, but the kid who could have been a senior at the University of Texas thought he was to blame.
“That's crazy,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Everybody has to chip in to help us win. And when they don't, everybody is part of a loss. But I like guys who feel bad, who are disappointed and want to do better, as long as it's within the team structure.”
Winning a gold medal for Team USA alongside teammate Russell Westbrook (and athletic trainer Joe Sharpe) at the FIBA World Championship last summer helped take out some of the sting for Durant, who arrived at training camp in late September still shaking his head at his playoff performance.
This year's postseason figures to be different, primarily because the Thunder is different.
Durant is a better player, and so are his teammates. OKC also is bigger, trading for 6-foot-10, 280-pound center Kendrick Perkins and 6-foot-10, 250-pound reserve center Nazr Mohammed.