Three-time scoring champ and Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant had a hectic summer and was unaware a red panda had been named in his honor at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
KayDee was born June 6, the same night the Thunder clinched the Western Conference title in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs. She was named by keeper Chrislyn Newton, who is a big Thunder fan.
Durant laughed when the news was shared at Media Day on Monday.
“You serious?” Durant asked. “Wow. Thank you. That's a first. Feels good.”
Thunder sixth man James Harden smiled when playfully asked if he was upset no animal was named after him.
“I'm not at KD's level yet,” Harden said.
What animal would Harden want named in his honor?
“Has to be something hairy,” Harden deadpanned, rubbing his famous beard.
What's the plan for the beard this season?
“That's a very good question,” Harden said. “It's starting to get a lot more recognition so … just go with the flow.”
Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka on Saturday night attended his first American football game when he witnessed the pulsating Oklahoma State-Texas game at Boone Pickens Stadium, which the Longhorns won 41-36.
Ibaka was the guest of Durant, a former Longhorn, who landed sideline passes.
Born in the Republic of Congo, Ibaka is no stranger to big-time futbol (soccer) matches.
“It was a really tight game and it was fun. I really enjoyed it,” Ibaka said of his Stillwater experience. “I almost feel like I was watching the soccer games back in Africa, kind of the same (type) stadium (atmosphere).”
Ibaka said he picked up on American football quickly and frequently asked Durant questions.
The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Ibaka has the size, strength and leaping ability that could make him an unstoppable tight end.
Would he ever consider playing football?
“Me? Hell no,” Ibaka said quickly and firmly. “That's not me.”
Starting center Kendrick Perkins isn't the only injured Thunder player heading into training camp, which begins Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Starting shooting guard Thabo Sefelosha is overcoming a deep thigh bruise.
Perkins had offseason surgery to his groin and left wrist. The wrist has yet to completely heal, but Perkins said he hopes to be ready for the regular-season opener Nov. 1 at San Antonio.
“Perk is going to be out most of the contact part of practice,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Thabo had a thigh contusion, but he's coming along the last couple of weeks, so he should be fine.”
Asked about the injury, Sefolosha smiled and said: “I got injured during the summer, but I'm recovering pretty fast and I should be OK really soon.”
Reserve point guard Eric Maynor, who played just nine games last season because of a season-ending knee injured suffered Jan. 7 at Houston, has been cleared to participate in training camp.
“I feel good,” Maynor said. “I'm ready to go, I know that.”
CENTERS OF ATTENTION
With Perkins still on the mend, backup centers Cole Aldrich, Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton figure to see plenty of action during the Thunder's seven preseason games.
“There's a lot of opportunity, no question,” Brooks said, “and we have enough players who can fill that spot while he's out. Cole will definitely get a good opportunity, (as will) Hasheem and Daniel. The league goes small quite a bit, so there's Serge. Nick Collison can play. I won't put Kevin there, definitely won't put Kevin there. Even though the league is small, I don't know if he could handle that (center) spot.”
WESTBROOK WEIGHS IN
Perhaps Brooks might be tempted to put a beefy Russell Westbrook at the center position.
The two-time All-Star officially will be listed at 187 pounds as he was last season, but the 6-foot-3 combo guard is noticeably thicker. The added bulk will help Westbrook post up undersized defenders in certain offensive sets.
Asked how much weight he gained, Westbrook would only offer: “A few pounds.”
Several teammates shook their heads when asked about Westbrook's chiseled physique.
Aldrich: “Russ, he's a freak. That's the best way to describe him.”
Guard Daequan Cook: “Russ is Russ. I mean, we always joke about Russ. Russ could probably take a whole year off and come back and be faster, more athletic and stronger than anybody on this team. … We might joke about it, but Russ is really in shape, all day every day.”
Guard Reggie Jackson: “Russ is a freak of nature already. He looks like he's always flexing. ... It's definitely good that he put on some weight. The way he attacks the basket, he takes a beating. It's only going to improve his game. The sky's the limit for him.”
The Thunder played until June 20 last season, one week before the NBA Draft. Four players then advanced to the championship game at the Summer Olympics in London with Team USA (Durant, Westbrook, Harden) defeating Spain (Ibaka) for the gold medal.
Brooks said he is not worried about a lack of rest for his Olympians, however.
“There's no question it was a short summer,” Brooks said. “We would have loved for it to be five days shorter by having a Game 6 and 7 (rather than losing 4-1 to Miami in the Finals). Not much of a concern, but I talked to all of them. I don't anticipate anything. They're all 23, 24 years old. Everything should be going forward.”
Durant on the departures of unrestricted free agents Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey: “I'd just like to thank those guys for what they've done for the Thunder organization. They helped build this mentality that we have here. They're character guys, they work hard every day. … So we thank those guys and what they've done for us. They really helped us grow.”
BY JOHN ROHDE AND ANTHONY SLATER