The changing landscape of the Western Conference hasn't changed Kevin Durant's outlook on his team's chances.
“It's not about what other teams are doing,” Durant told The Oklahoman. “It's about what we're going to do every single game. That's how we approach it.”
Durant, speaking at his fifth annual basketball camp Friday on the campus of OU, returned to Oklahoma carrying unwavering confidence and commitment, in himself, his teammates and their combined abilities to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the conference standings.
Despite the Thunder's relatively quiet offseason, one that's been void of impactful additions and widely labeled disappointing, Durant expressed belief in the direction of the team and the players that are in place.
The Thunder lost sixth man Kevin Martin to Minnesota and allowed seldom-used swingman Ronnie Brewer to walk. Oklahoma City then re-signed Derek Fisher and inked forward Ryan Gomes. In the June draft, the Thunder selected Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Grant Jerrett and Alex Abrines. Abrines will remain overseas, and none of the other additions are expected to be high-level contributors on the court this season.
“People that really knew, as far as our money situation, knew that we couldn't sign anybody too big,” Durant said. “We got myself, Russell (Westbrook), (Kendrick Perkins) and Serge (Ibaka) all locked in on big contracts so it's kind of hard to sign (someone). Everybody wants us to get the biggest free agents, but it's kind of hard to do that with the money that we have (committed) and the tax and the new CBA. So it was kind of difficult. But we knew the business side of it. But we know we have a really good team.”
The Thunder has more than $53 million committed to Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka and Perkins this season. The league's salary cap for the 2013-14 season has been set at $58.6 million, limiting the Thunder's ability to make any real noise this summer.
Still, the Thunder tried to lure a few free agents, namely Mike Miller and Dorell Wright. Miller ultimately chose to return to Memphis, where he spent 5 1/2 seasons earlier in his career, and Wright landed in Portland on a slightly more lucrative contract than the Thunder could offer.
Durant confirmed reports that he did indeed recruit both players, saying he “talked to Dorell and Mike a few times.” It was the first time Durant used his status to help recruit free agents to Oklahoma City.
“I texted those guys and let them know that it was no hard feelings if they didn't want to come to Oklahoma City, which is cool with me because those guys got to make decisions for their families,” Durant said. “Hopefully down the line we can get some players to come play for us.”