In England for the NBA Global Games taking place this week, Kevin Durant talked a little bit about what it was like as a rookie on the 2007-08 Seattle Supersonics (RIP) team that eventually moved to Oklahoma City that summer to become the Thunder. That Sonics squad finished 20-62 his rookie year, after he trading Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
The Thunder play the Sixers tomorrow in England. One team is a title-contender and the other a lottery contender, but it wasn’t always so for the Thunder. Durant spoke about his trying rookie season after getting drafted No. 2 overall by the rebuilding Sonics. The 2007—08 Sonics had missed the playoffs the two seasons prior, and decided to trade Allen to the Celtics and Lewis to the Magic. That left an offensive void Durant tried to fill, but he had only played one year of college ball at Texas and he just wasn’t ready to lead his team.
Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“It was tough for me especially coming in as a young player. I thought I was going to play with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis when they were all-star every year. Every game it was tough knowing that it was going to be hard for us to win. But what we did was come in and work hard every day, and know that it was going to be a process and maybe a tough year.”
Durant averaged over 20 PPG and shot a respectable 43 percent from the field (though his 3-point shooting was an abysmal 28.8 percent) on his way to the Rookie of the Year award that inaugural season. But that Sonics team was dreadful, with only the Miami Heat finishing the year with fewer wins.
The Sixers — after trading Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for the pick that turned into Nerlens Noel — are in full-on rebuild mode under new GM Sam Hinkie. With a raw rookie, Michael Carter-Williams, at point guard, and with last season’s only All-Star now in New Orleans, the Sixers are emphasizing a long term plan to get better through the draft, similar to rise of the Thunder under GM Sam Presti and Durant as their superstar.
With so much talent coming out in the 2014 NBA Draft, Hinkie and the Sixers brain trust thought it was time to rebuild now rather than waste another year on the cusp of playoff relevance without really competing for a title.
Durant’s advice to Carter-Williams, other young Sixers players and any young player that finds themselves on a losing team early in their NBA careers: “You just have to keep pushing through it.”