Anyone with a clue knew Kevin Durant, picked No. 2 in the 2007 draft, quickly would become a great player. But who knew he would so soon become such a star?
Who knew, in his third NBA season, flying the colors of Oklahoma City’s Thunder, Durant would be the biggest story during all-star weekend? Durant was everywhere. Coaching the rookies. Playing H-O-R-S-E. Pitching Nikes. Durant had more TNT face time than did Charles Barkley. Just look at the treatment of Durant during the All-Star telecast Sunday night. Pull two other players out of a hat. Let’s say Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. Anthony a perennial scoring-title threat on a Denver team that will challenge the Lakers for NBA supremacy. Pierce an eight-time all-star on the regal Celtics. Neither got near the air time Durant did. Kobe. LeBron. D-Wade. Even hometowner Dirk Nowitzki. None were as hot as Durant. The only story that rivaled the arrival of Durant on the NBA superstar stage was the looming labor strife, which is no small issue. The owners really do seem serious about reigning in costs come summer 2011, when the collective bargaining agreement expires. The owners are pushing for a hard salary cap, which almost surely will reduce overall payrolls, and shorter maximum contracts, from five to four years. Which some have speculated means the Thunder could try to save some coin by waiting to sign Durant to a contract extension. Could happen. But only if the Thunder brass is idiotic. The possible new labor landscape only makes it more likely that the Thunder could sign Durant in 2010, before the new financial order is set. Durant has more reason than ever to stay. He most certainly can get more money and more security in 2010 from OKC than he could from any of the 30 teams in 2011. When you add the Boomtown element — great young roster, soaring success — of Oklahoma City, Durant would be a fool to not sign one of those six-year, $100-million extensions that have become the norm for superstars after their third NBA season.