Somewhere there's a blueprint, waiting on Kevin Durant to dissect its details and pursue its path. It leads to stardom. Michael Jordan passed it to Kobe Bryant who passed it to LeBron James who passed it to Dwyane Wade. Durant, the Seattle Sonics' baby-faced, 19-year-old prodigy, is next in line. Barring complications from a recent foot injury, Durant is set to start his rookie season Wednesday night at Denver. "Success is written all over him,” said longtime NBA coach Paul Silas, who coached LeBron James during his first two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. "He's just got it. Very seldom does the good Lord give a player everything. He's almost given this player just about everything he needs for success.” It starts with a 6-foot-9 frame that still is teenager-thin but built to play multiple positions and score from anywhere on the court. Durant's silky-smooth jump shot, from midrange and the perimeter, and his relentless attacks on the rim have him pegged not only to win the Rookie of the Year award in a landslide but also to have a hall-of-fame worthy career. "The potential for him is certainly high,” said Sonics General Manager Sam Presti. "But we're going to allow him to be himself, and we're not going to place any type of expectations or limitations on him as he enters into the program.” Durant joins a Sonics squad void of experienced stars after the team traded Ray Allen to Boston and Rashard Lewis to Orlando this summer. As the brightest star on a team that enters this season with an average age of 24.9 years old, Durant's success will now largely determine the entire organization's achievements. "We're going to support him and we're going to work with him and coach him and give him every opportunity to develop,” Presti said. "But we're going to let him be Kevin Durant.” And that's just the way the former Texas Longhorn star likes it. He could do without the name-calling. Maybe you've heard them. Savior. The Man. Face of the franchise. Go-to guy. Durant is happy with being, well, Kevin Durant. "I don't think I'm ‘The Man,' ” Durant said in June shortly after he was drafted second overall. "I'm just going to go in there and work hard, and whatever my coaches need me to do I'll do. I know my teammates are going to help me out. I just can't wait to start.” The blueprint for stardom starts with a strong support system. It's what's credited for keeping stars such as James, Wade and Hornets guard Chris Paul grounded while they blossom into national and international icons. Durant lives with his mother, Wanda Pratt, who moved from the family's Maryland home to help her son transition into the NBA world. Among other things, Pratt fixes home-cooked meals for Durant, providing the all-so important proper nutrition that promotes optimal health and conditioning. "He's off to a great start with having his family around him,” said Sonics forward Kurt Thomas, who at 35 is Durant's oldest teammate by five years. "And then it's good to have his teammates be very supportive of him, because with him being such a young player, it's important to try to lead him in the right direction and steer him away from the wrong crowd.” Hornets coach Byron Scott, who nurtured Paul in his first two seasons, warns that good character teammates with integrity, compassion and drive are just as important. "What we had to do (with Paul) was surround him with quality people on the court,” Scott said. "The off-the-court things I thought were taken care of a long time ago by his parents. They did a terrific job of raising him.” Paul, who is good friends with Durant, said the Sonics will have to win in order for Durant to realize his star potential. Paul said one of Durant's biggest challenges on the court will be having teammates that might look to him too much sometimes because of his talents. "I think he'll be successful,” Paul said. "He's one of those guys (who) know how to play the game. It's going to be a struggle from the get-go, but he'll find it.” But no one doubts Durant's on-court success. Presti called him "a great talent who continues to grow each time he steps on the floor.” "You've seen some guys come in the NBA and thrive and really play well, and for other guys it's a little bit overwhelming,” said Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo. "But I look at a guy like Kevin Durant and it's hard for me to imagine him not taking advantage of the opportunity to get the kinds of minutes that young guys don't get in this league.” Developing Durant's talents, however, will take some doing. Silas said he set up one-on-one film sessions with James to increase his knowledge of the game. "He has to become a student of the game, and that's what I did with LeBron,” Silas said. "I was very patient with him, but I made sure that his understanding of the game increased as time went on. Because with great athletes, you assume that they know everything right away and they don't.” Under Silas, James averaged 39.5 minutes in his rookie season. Under Scott, Paul averaged 36. Carlesimo will take the same approach, letting Durant make mistakes and learn on the court. "That can be a great learning experience,” Carlesimo said. What Durant does from there is up to him. "The on-the-court things, I don't think that's going to necessarily be a problem because he's a very talented young man,” Silas said. "He shoots the ball well, and he'll continue to learn. But it's the off-the-court things that I think he has to adjust to, and the mental part of the game. If he does that he's going to be nothing but successful.”
The Kevin Durant file•Position: Shooting guard/small forward. •Height: 6-foot-9. •Weight: 225. •Of note: Earned National Player of the Year honors from every major presenter... First Team All-American... Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year... Averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds last season at Texas... Taken with the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft by the Sonics after Portland picked Greg Oden.
Projecting DurantThe Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry projects Kevin Durant's rookie statistics.