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OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant is becoming the king of closing games

With his 18-point, fourth-quarter scoring barrage — which included 16 straight for his team during a five-minute stretch — Durant on Saturday enhanced his status as one of the league's best closers.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 3, 2012

Durant set 'em up and then knocked 'em down.

“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.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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