Reporting David Elfin
It looks so easy for Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City now that it’s easy to forget that the Thunder were just about where the Wizards are now just three seasons ago.
Durant and Co. was the Rookie of the Year in 2008, the franchise’s final year in Seattle, and an All-Star in 2009, its first year in Oklahoma City, but the SuperSonics/Thunder won just 43 games while losing 121, nearly three times as many.
So Durant, who left Texas after becoming the lone freshman to win national Player of the Year honors and was chosen No. 2 overall in the 2008 NBA draft, is a good role model for Washington guard John Wall, who left Kentucky after just one season and was the top choice in the 2010 draft.
“Keep faith, man,” the 23-year-old Durant, an All-NBA choice the past two seasons said when asked what advice he would give the 21-year-old Wall, whose 1-12 Wizards play host to the Thunder tonight at Verizon Center. “You’ve got to go through tough stretches. I’ve been through that for two years in this league, losing (121) games. .. He works hard. The team works hard. Just keep faith in your hard work and things are going to change. They have the right talent here, the front office is doing the right thing. In no time, they’ll be pretty good. … Rome (wasn’t) built in a day. You hear that a lot, but it’s pretty true. It took some patience.”
That was easier for the Thunder, who were immediate heroes as the state’s first professional franchise than for the Wizards, whose worst-ever pace this season follows a 26-56 debut campaign and who have won a lone playoff series since 1982 while missing postseason in 20 of the last 29 years.
Wall said that knowing that the Thunder endured similar hard times before taking the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers to six games in 2010 and then advancing to the Western Conference finals last year before losing to eventual champion Dallas, “(But) it don’t make it easier because you want it to come as soon as possible.”
Suitland native Durant, who starred at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington and at Montrose Christian in Rockville and was the All-Met Player of the Year just six years ago, is also being patient on a more personal front.
“Growing up, I wanted to be the best player in my neighborhood,” Durant said. “I wanted to be the best player in the state and (that) the area’s ever seen. That’s always been my goal. Guys like (Hall of Famers) Elgin Baylor, Adrian Dantley and Dave Bing, it’s tough to pass those guys. I’m a steady worker and my project’s not over yet. Hopefully I get there. Those guys paved the way for me. I’m very appreciative of them and all the players (before me) that played overseas, played in the league, that went to college. I look up to them and I thank them.”
And if Wall ever leads the Wizards to the level that the league-leading Thunder (12-2), perhaps he’ll thank Durant for his wise advice.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.