Published June 30, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant's offseason itinerary has taken the NBA's youngest scoring champion to New York, L.A., Chicago and the Great Wall of China, and it will lead him elsewhere with the U.S. national basketball team.
All the while, he's settling into a new home in Oklahoma City — perhaps long term.
"So far, my summer's been great," Durant said Wednesday at the opening of his youth basketball camp.
Soon, it could also bring a financial windfall.
Durant and the Thunder can begin negotiations on a long-term contract extension late Wednesday. It's be his first chance to cash in big-time on his budding NBA stardom, which has brought him the Rookie of the Year award, a selection to last year's All-Star game and finally the scoring title at age 21.
Just hours before the negotiations could start, Durant had no interest in airing his demands publicly.
"We'll see," Durant said. "We'll talk about that tomorrow if it happens."
Durant has previously said he wants to stay put, but would it take a maximum contract to make it happen?
"I'm just worried about these campers outside," Durant said. "That's all I'm worried about right now."
Durant said he expected to be watching TV or using his iPad when the negotiation period opens, and he's "not really" expecting a knock on his door when the clock strikes midnight out east.
He preferred to talk about anything but his contract situation. After all, he was trying to pass along a message to the campers that the keys to success are having a passion and love for the game while knowing the fundamentals.
"I'm still a kid myself," Durant said.
About 460 boys and girls were signed up for the three-day camp for kids ages 7-18, with another 60 on a waiting list, and Durant provided a treat right off the bat. With kids in the morning session seated in rows, Durant stood at halfcourt with his back to the basket and banked in an over-the-shoulder shot.
"That's been in my repertoire for a while. I'm practicing it for my H-O-R-S-E championship next year again," said Durant, who has taken home the first two H-O-R-S-E titles at the NBA's All-Star weekend.
Durant said he embraces the opportunity to be a role model for children at the camp and elsewhere.
"The moment you're drafted, kids look up to you and want to be in your position," Durant said. "But I'm a regular guy. That's what I try to tell people is that you can come up and talk to me and I'll talk back to you. I'm a cool person. I just happen to play basketball.
"But at the same time, I know kids are looking up to me. I know I have to do the right thing for them to look up to."
Durant's offseason started earlier than he had hoped, after the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated the Thunder on Pau Gasol's tip-in with a half-second left in a 95-94 victory in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. Oklahoma City, which had won just 23 games a season earlier, finished with 50 wins while making the playoffs for the first time since Durant was drafted in 2007.
Still, watching the rest of the playoffs was hard on him — especially as the Lakers kept winning.
"It made it worse, of course, because we had the chance to beat those guys," Durant said. "But they're the champions, so you've got to respect what they did and how they got there. But it was tough to watch. As a competitor, I couldn't watch it anymore. A lot of people were talking about that I was upset, but that's just who I am.
"I'm just trying to work even harder and harder to get back to the playoffs first of all and try to go far."
Durant said there have only been about 10 days over the past two months when he hasn't played basketball, even as he has shuttled from coast to coast and beyond. He's spent time back home near the nation's capital, visited teammates in Los Angeles and held camps in Chicago and in China — where he visited the Great Wall and Forbidden City and saw pandas for the first time.
Later this summer, he'll join the U.S. team for camp in Las Vegas before playing in the world championships in Turkey.
"I can't stay away from the game that long. It could be tough on my body but I just can't stay away from it," Durant said.