Give it some time, Kevin Durant. OKC will learn your name and face soon enough.
The 2007-08 NBA Rookie of the Year was just another face in the crowd to many of those in attendance at Friday’s Hurricane Ike benefit concert featuring artists Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at the Zoo Amphitheater.
It was a strange sight to see some people walk right past a future NBA All-Star without so much as making eye contact. Some, not all, literally treated him as though he were a panhandler as he graciously tried to hand out Thunder Blue bracelets that read, “Oklahoma City Thunder.”
You would think his 6-foot-9 inch frame would have at least sparked a raised head and a look of curiosity. Then again, those same folks probably would get a chuckle at my expense if they saw me cluelessly ignore Robert Plant or Alison Krauss, both of whom I have no chance of picking out of a lineup.
But not all were totally oblivious. Perhaps it was the gigantic Thunder T-Shirt balloon or the boom of “Thunderstruck” over the PA system or Kevin’s height, but some knew he was “somebody” even if they didn’t know who. Those fans politely asked him his name, extended a hand and a warm smile and welcomed him to town.
Many more stopped and greeted Durant, Jeff Green and, surprise, surprise, John Lucas III on Friday night as they collected non-perishable food items and handed out bracelets and tickets to the team’s Oct.14 preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Kevin Durant at Zoo Amphitheater (I wish I knew how to make this thing smaller).
Lucas, the former OSU standout, is a training camp addition who could win the team’s 15th and final roster spot as the third string point guard. Lucas holds career averages of 3.1 points, 0.8 assists and 0.7 rebounds in 60 games, all with the Houston Rockets from 2005-07. Derrick Byars, a 6-7 guard/forward out of Vanderbilt, and Chris Alexander, a 7-1 center out of Iowa State, are also expected to be added to the training camp roster.
Green, Durant and Lucas were all happy to be at Friday’s event. The chemistry between Green and Durant was obvious from the moment their frames came within view.
When asked to pose by the Feed The Children truck, Durant immediately struck a playful pose with his hands on his hips like a 15-year-old schoolgirl. Next to him, Green put his foot on one of the back left tires of the 18-wheeler and posed as if he were the proud manufacturer of the behemoth.
I asked Kevin how long he’s been in town. He said three or four weeks. When I asked how he likes it so far he said, “I love it so far. I just can’t wait to start winning.”
That stuck with me. Durant could have said he can’t wait for the season to start or he can’t wait until the public sees the uniforms for the first time or anything else. He said, “I just can’t wait to start winning.”
There were a few Red River Rivalry moments of note. The most comical came when two young men walked up to Kevin to take a photo with him.
KD: “How ya’ll doing?”
KD: “What school ya’ll go to?” (as he puts his arms around the two).
Durant immediately hangs his head, pretending (I think) to be disgusted and removes his arms from the boys’ shoulders before walking away. He’s only joking, of course, and returns to take the photo. Durant gets the last laugh, however, by throwing up a Longhorns sign. The girl taking the photo says, “You didn’t have to do that.”
Another young fan walked up to Durant and told him he was at the triple overtime OSU game that became an instant classic in which Durant scored 37 with 12 rebounds. Durant didn’t seem too thrilled to hear about the game. And Lucas, hiding behind Durant, begins nodding his head in approval toward the fan, remembering the Cowboys won the game, 105-103.