SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Kevin Durant hasn't been back to Seattle since April 2008.
Since leaving the city he was drafted to soon after his rookie season, Durant has severed all ties to Seattle. Early last year, Durant dropped the final domino when he sold his Mercer Island home.
The place has been a fond but distant memory ever since.
“I haven't been back since my last game as a Sonic,” Durant said. “That's the last time I've been back.”
That could be about to change.
Friday's game against the Kings could be the Thunder's last trip to Sacramento. A Washington-based group is in the process of purchasing the franchise with the intent of relocating the team to Seattle next season.
Durant, who was the soft-spoken, teenage face of the Sonics franchise during the 2007-08 season, has mixed emotions about the potential move.
“It's a great day for the Seattle fans and a tough day for Sacramento fans,” Durant said. “I've been a part of that whole deal.
“I loved the city of Seattle. It's a great place to live. It's beautiful, especially in the spring and summertime. The fans are unbelievable, man. They show so much support. It's just a great city, a great NBA city. But I feel for the Sacramento fans because you never know when another team will come around. (Sacramento) is a great city. The fans are very enthused about basketball there in Sacramento so it's going to be tough to see them leave.”
Nick Collison is the only other Thunder player left from the franchise's Seattle days. Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka both were drafted by the Sonics in 2008 but never played a game in Seattle. The draft took place in late June, but the team relocated to Oklahoma City in early July. Collison still has a home in the Seattle area and spends the bulk of his off-seasons there.
Durant just hopes he's well received.
“I hope so. I didn't have any say-so in the move. It's not like I just wanted to get up and leave,” Durant said. “I was just doing what the organization wanted to do. Oklahoma City is a great place to play basketball as well, and it all worked out for us. But Seattle is a great city as well. Being drafted there, I still have a place in my heart for the city of Seattle.”
Nearly five years later, Durant still has vivid memories of the final time he took the floor inside KeyArena — the outdated venue that Seattle officials and residents refused to replace, paving the way for the franchise's move to Oklahoma City.
“I remember every minute of the game,” Durant said. “We played Dallas. They were fighting for, I think, the fifth or sixth seed in the playoffs. We wanted to be a spoiler and just make it tough on them. It was a back and forth game and I remember I hit a shot to put us up one with a couple of minutes to go and I couldn't hear anything walking to the bench. And that's how loud it was in there.
“Those fans, they want you to just play your heart out and they'll support you. It's going to be cool to go back there and play as an opposing team. I know they're not going to show Oklahoma City as much love as we'd like. But it'll be fun to play in there. So we'll see what happens.”
Having lived through a tumultuous lame duck season, Durant said he expects current Kings players to pick his brain about the uncertainty at some point Friday. He isn't exactly sure what to tell them.
“It's just a tough situation because you really have no control,” Durant said. “You just got to get up and leave and go to a new city, a new environment.”
Thunder guard Kevin Martin, meanwhile, is facing the possibility of playing his final game in the city he was drafted to. Sacramento selected Martin with the 26th overall pick in 2004. He played his first 5½ seasons with the Kings before being traded to Houston.
“I definitely feel for the community of Sacramento because they have one of the greatest fan bases in the league,” Martin said. “I have nothing but positive things to say about them just because I know how bad they want their team there and I know how much that city needs their team there.
“When I first got there, and throughout my years there, it was like a mirror image (to Oklahoma City). They love NBA basketball. It was a connection like it is in Oklahoma with the community and the team, just thriving off of each other.”
Martin expects Friday's game to be emotional.
“Oh yeah. I've been talking to a couple of people about it,” he said. “I know how that city embraced me when I was there and whenever I go back. So that's going to be very tough to swallow knowing that Friday could be my last game playing in there.”