This time, Kevin Durant wasn't just being a good teammate.
His endorsement and subsequent excitement was genuine.
His explanation had everything to do with winning and winning now.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder's star forward learned that Nazr Mohammed would remain with the team after agreeing to a one-year, $3.75 million contract Wednesday, Durant knew immediately how significant of a signing it was.
“I was very glad to see Nazr get signed because I know how hard he works and I know how much he can help us out,” Durant told The Oklahoman on Thursday. “You see guys like Dallas and the Lakers, they have a lot of bigs. That's what we need to contend.”
Although a labor dispute has threatened the 2011-12 NBA season, the Thunder is among three Western Conference teams expected to contend for next year's championship. The Thunder won 55 games and made it to the West Finals last season before losing in five games to the eventual champion Mavericks. The Lakers, who won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, also have been pegged as one of the favorites to win the title.
Durant views Mohammed as a key ingredient in the Thunder's quest. Mohammed will team with starting center Kendrick Perkins and reserves Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens to form one of the best center rotations in the league.
The Lakers, though, arguably have the best frontline in basketball with center Andrew Bynum and power forward Pau Gasol, as well as versatile forward Lamar Odom coming off the bench. The Mavs, meanwhile, started Tyson Chandler at center last year with Dirk Nowitzki at power forward and Brendan Haywood spelling Chandler.
As the starting center for San Antonio during the 2004-05 season, Mohammed helped the Spurs to a title with averages of 7.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in just 23 minutes per game in the 2005 postseason. The Spurs defeated Detroit in seven games in the NBA Finals.
“He's a veteran big that's been there,” Durant said of Mohammed. “It's easy for us to just keep getting young guys and rookies, but to keep a veteran that knows what it takes is going to really help us.”
Mohammed averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 57.3 percent in 24 games with the Thunder following a midseason trade from Charlotte last season. He saw less playing time in the playoffs, however, going from 17.9 minutes in the regular season to 10.6 minutes in the postseason, and his averages dipped to 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in the playoffs.
As for his newest teammate, Durant raved about Reggie Jackson after meeting the 24th overall pick and working out with him for the first time Wednesday.
“I was very impressed with him; how quick and how long and athletic he is,” Durant said.
Durant immediately felt the smothering effects of Jackson's reported 7-foot wingspan.
“We played one-one and he was guarding me. He kind of spaced me a little bit but still was up into me as a defender. That's rare,” said Durant, whose jump shot is hardly ever tightly contested coming from his lanky 6-9 frame. “His arms are very long and he's very athletic. He covers ground quick.
“Most guys coming into this league go 100 miles an hour, especially guards. But he has a great pace to his game and I think he's going to help us out.”