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Carlson: Durant, Westbrook, Collison are survivors

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 16, 2011

The argument about who has been the Thunder's most valuable player in this postseason boils down to three of the boys in blue.

Kevin Durant.

Russell Westbrook.

Nick Collison.

These guys are completely different players with different skill sets, different body types and different imprints on the game. But they have one very important thing in common.


Durant, Westbrook and Collison were the only players on the current roster who were here two seasons ago when the Thunder started its inaugural season with that dreadful record. It led to P.J. Carlesimo being fired. It led to Scott Brooks earning the interim coach tag. It led to Oklahoma City wondering just what kind of NBA mess it had gotten itself into.

As the Thunder prepares to open the Western Conference Finals against the Mavericks, those days seem long ago and far away.

Still, they are forever part of the 3-29 Three.

“It was tough,” Durant said. “It was tough.”

His eyes glazed a bit as he thought back.

“I had been through it the season before,” Durant said referring to an equally brutal season during his rookie year in Seattle, “and to do it back-to-back years, it was tough on us.”

Westbrook said: “For me, it was surprising. I was coming from college where we didn't lose that many games in a long time.”

In two seasons at UCLA, Westbrook and his Bruins teammates lost 10 games.

The Thunder lost that many games in the first three weeks of the 2008-09 season.

By the time the team hit rock bottom — it fell to 3-29 with a 110-102 home loss against Phoenix on Dec. 29, 2008 — talk had turned to how low the Thunder could go. The Philadelphia 76ers had won an all-time worst nine games in 1972-73, and with the pace that the Thunder was on, it was going to fall well short of that nine-win plateau.

“People were saying we were going to be the worst team ever,” Durant said Sunday after the Thunder's dramatic Game 7 victory against the Grizzlies.

He glanced around the interview room, eyebrow raised.

“Especially some of you guys in this room right now.”

Guilty as charged.

But the truth is, now two seasons removed, we can see that rocky start became the cornerstone for the Thunder's success.

It wasn't rock bottom. It was bedrock.

“The thing that happened when you go through seasons like that, maybe you don't have that fear of failure as much anymore,” Collison said. “You've been embarrassed — and it's very embarrassing to be 3-29, be the worst team in the league — but once you go through that, maybe you don't have that fear.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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