Thunder small forward Kevin Durant said he needs to get away from basketball for a while, and that's exactly what he'll do this week during NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
Wait a minute. Huh?
"This is going to be a fun week for me," Durant said. "Getting away from the game of basketball just a little bit is going to be good. I think the game so much (more intensely) at a different level as far as playing in a real game that counts. Just to go out there (LA) and have some fun â€¦ My hobby is playing basketball, so going there and seeing the dunk contest or being in the 3-point contest, that's going to take my mind away from it."
Durant and Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook admit they have been tired at times this season, but in the midst of a seven-day break from 82 regular-season games, the Thunder's All-Star tandem gladly accepts there will be no rest for the weary.
Ask Durant and Westbrook if they would prefer to rest rather than partake in All-Star Weekend and they'll look at you sideways.
"You kiddin'?" said Westbrook, flashing a smile and shaking his head.
Durant and Westbrook have felt fatigue at times this season, understandable given their recent schedules.
Neither missed a start last season and Westbrook hasn't missed a game since cracking the starting lineup exactly 200 games ago.
Durant, who has sat out four games this season due to ankle and knee injuries, ranks third in the league in minutes played at 39.6 mpg.
Add to the mix a gold-medal performance as members of Team USA at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey last summer.
While it is notable Durant and Westbrook have played roughly 110 organized games in a one-year span (including exhibitions games), teams that go deep into the NBA playoffs play even more than that, which is foreign territory Durant and Westbrook soon hope to explore.
"I was tired a few weeks ago when we played those three overtime games (in a seven-game span), but that's what off days are for," Durant said. "Coach (Scott Brooks) does a good job of giving us off days and practicing."
The 22-year, 141-day-old Durant has learned he's not as young as he once was.
"I'm a guy who loves to be in a gym," Durant said, "but I'm starting to realize when I need to take off and when I need to come in. During my off days, I just relax, get my mind ready for the next game and come out as energized as I can."
Durant will compete in the 3-point contest on Saturday and start for the West squad in the All-Star Game on Sunday. He also will coach teammate Serge Ibaka in Saturday night's dunk contest. The 21-year-old Ibaka also will compete for the sophomore team in the Rookie Challenge.
Westbrook will make his first All-Star Game appearance after being voted on by West coaches as a reserve. An announcement will come from the NBA on Thursday as to whether fans voted for Westbrook to compete against New Orleans guard Chris Paul in the Skills Challenge on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Westbrook grew up in Hawthorne, 15 miles away from Staples Center, and will be surrounded by family and friends all week.
"To see him in an All-Star uniform for the first time in his hometown really makes me proud â€“ makes me feel like a big brother," Durant said of Westbrook. "I'm excited for him."
Durant has participated in All-Star Weekend festivities all four years he has been in the league and has learned how to pace himself.
"After my rookie season, I felt it (fatigue)," Durant said. "I came out and played terribly that whole month (February 2008 for the Seattle SuperSonics). The last two or three years, I think I did a little better in handling that situation. It's just a matter of me sitting down a little bit while I'm out there, not doing too much."
Westbrook said he would try to stay off his feet as much as possible, and will be surrounded by family while doing so.
Two years ago in Phoenix, Durant scored a record 46 points for the sophomore team in the Rookie Challenge, also had seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and was named MVP. Thunder teammate Jeff Green added 13 points for the sophomores and Westbrook scored 12 for the rookies.
Last year in Dallas, Westbrook had 40 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals for the sophomore team, while teammate James Harden had 22 points and five rebounds for the victorious rookies.
"Actually, it's a good game to play in," Westbrook said of the Rookie Challenge. "It helps keep your conditioning up, things like that."
When Thunder training camp commenced last September, Brooks was asked if he was concerned about Durant and Westbrook getting worn out from too much ball.
Citing each player's youth and their overwhelming passion for the game, Brooks said he was not concerned about fatigue back then, and he is not concerned now. The way Brooks sees it, there could be no better reason to not rest this week.
"That's such an exclusive group," Brooks said of becoming an All-Star.
The Thunder has a 6 p.m. practice Monday and will play the Los Angeles Clippers and rookie sensation Blake Griffin on Tuesday at 7 p.m. inside Oklahoma City Arena.
"You know the second half of the season is the most important, and you still have to get your mind right," Westbrook said. "You flush that (All-Star Weekend) out and get ready to play."