Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Updated: July 1, 7:58 AM ET
Sources: Thunder, Durant meet
By Marc Stein
The Oklahoma City Thunder opened the free-agency period with a visit to a familiar face.
Sources with knowledge of the Thunder's plans said team officials met with star forward Kevin Durant at his new Oklahoma City home at one minute past midnight Thursday to formally open negotiations on a contract extension.
It remains to be seen how long talks actually take, given the Thunder's famously methodical ways, but there seems little doubt that Durant will ultimately receive the maximum five-year extension worth in excess of $80 million from Oklahoma City before the Oct. 31 deadline.
Durant, in his third season, won a scoring title at 21 and helped Scotty Brooks win NBA Coach of the Year honors with the 50-win Thunder, who then extended the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Just hours before the negotiations could start, Durant had no interest in airing his demands publicly.
"We'll see," Durant told The Associated Press at the opening of his youth basketball camp. "We'll talk about that tomorrow if it happens."
Durant told the AP 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's offseason started earlier than he had hoped, after the 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.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.