“I'm not where I want to be, but I'm going to keep growing in those situations,” Durant said. “I think those tough times are going to help me get better.”
The truth is those tough times are what got Durant to this point.
They started when, as a rookie in Seattle, Durant stepped onto a Sonics squad that had traded stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis shortly after Durant was drafted. Most thought management was sabotaging the franchise. The front office, though, was expressing its belief in Durant, showing faith in his potential as a player as well as confidence in his character.
Durant, keep in mind, was just 19 then. It was a tough role to take on for the teenager. But the team, which has never been shortsighted regarding player development, was committed to Durant as the No. 1 option. When Allen and Lewis were both dealt, Durant was put on the path to get to this very position at which he stands tall today.
Those early days, though, weren't pretty.
“His first year, he was (down) on the floor a lot,” said Brooks, an assistant then. “He wasn't backing down, but he didn't have the strength to finish and he didn't have the strength to get to his spots. People were knocking him around. But we just told him keep getting up, keep doing your work on and off the court and he has. Very rarely now do you see him on the floor.”
Brooks now says Durant is stronger, tougher. Mentally and physically.
That's courtesy of all the on-the-job training Oklahoma City got to see in Durant's second, third and fourth seasons. All the missed game-winners, some of them air-balls. All the disappointing fourth quarters, some of them scoreless frames.
Only now are we beginning to see the best of what the payoff has to offer.
The fourth quarter of Game 4 was Durant's time, and he seized the moment.
It might just go down as the coronation of Durant as King Closer.