Kevin Durant never let his mind drift to his pseudo rivalry with Greg Oden when he heard the latest injury to Portland’s 7-foot center. The Thunder’s star — even though to this day he would rather have heard his name called first overall in the 2007 NBA Draft – set aside his competitive fire and felt compassion for Oden’s most recent setback.
Oden fractured his left patella in a game against Houston on Sunday and underwent season-ending surgery on Monday.
“Once I heard he was having surgery, to be honest with you I almost drew a tear for him,” said Durant, who became the no-brainer No. 2 pick behind Oden in one of the most highly-debated decisions in the draft’s history.
Durant understands the link he will forever share with Oden and the unavoidable games of “What if?’ some are sure to conjure up. And Oden’s newest hurdle only heightens the historical significance of their selection order.
After three seasons, Oden will have played just 82 games, or the equivalent of one full season. Durant, meanwhile, has taken his projected place as the face of a franchise. He’s on his way to becoming an All-Star and an Olympian. Durant has missed only 10 career games and this season is averaging 28.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals, all career-highs.
But in no way does Durant feel vindicated for being passed over, and he said the constant comparisons are pointless.
“It’s unfair to him because people don’t know how hard he works every day,” Durant said. “But they’re already ready to tear him down. That’s life I guess. But he works hard every day and he does his job every day and people don’t give him credit for that.”
Despite their differing levels of individual success, Durant humbly credited the Blazers’ team success and said he doesn’t think Oden should have to worry about living in his shadow as a player.
“Those guys are a playoff team and are one of the top teams in the West,” Durant said. “Without him they wouldn’t be there. So I guess I’m living in his shadow. He was the No. 1 pick. I was the No. 2. And his team is doing better. I’m just trying to fight toward that with my team. So I wouldn’t say he’s in my shadow.”
Durant said he believes Oden will bounce back from this injury much like he did when recovering from the microfracture surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2007-08 season.
“The last injury he came back and was stronger,” Durant said. “He was playing well, and I know for a fact that if everything works out and his knee gets better and he continues to rehab and everything he’s going to come back better. He’s going to come back with a chip on his shoulder and he’s going to be tough on a lot of defenders.”
Durant reached out to Oden via text message earlier this week and told the Blazers’ big man to keep his head up. Durant let Oden know that he was praying for him. Durant remembered how he was forced to miss seven games last year with a sprained ankle and called the experience, “one of the toughest times of my life.”
“I can’t imagine how it is with him missing the rest of the season, and he did that twice,” Durant said. “It’s tough to go through for a person that loves the game so much.
“The best thing I can do, the only thing I can do, is pray for him and that’s what I told him.”