The stage is now all his, not that Kevin Durant wants it. Not yet, anyway.
The second pick in the NBA draft and the supposed teenage savior of the Seattle SuperSonics is still getting over the loss of Greg Oden, the other half of the twin rookie stars of the Northwest. Oden, the No. — choice drafted by Portland, is out for the year after major knee surgery two weeks ago.
"I can't imagine, man. I was shocked," Durant tells The Associated Press after a KeyArena photo shoot this week, his first days settling into Seattle and his professional life. "I was devastated. I thought it was just a rumor."
That leaves the rookie superstardom to Durant. Last season, he became the first freshman honored as national college player of the year,.
The sleek, 6-foot-9 shooter and slasher is so smooth that old-schoolers liken him to George Gervin and Bob McAdoo. He already has signed with Nike and is on the cover of a video game. Gatorade announced him as its newest spokesman this week, following the branding legacy of Michael Jordan and becoming the first NBA rookie the company has signed.
"I don't think it is ever 'my stage,'" said Durant, who turns 19 Saturday and that day will throw out the first pitch at a Mariners game. "I'm just a rookie, just another rookie in the league. I'm not above anyone or whatever people want to call it. All the vets still call me 'Rook.' They don't think I'm in the higher echelon or anything like that."
Those veterans of the Sonics, a team that has missed the playoffs four times in the last five years and is likely entering its final season in Seattle, have already warned Durant of his tasks once training camp begins Tuesday.
"Wally (Szczerbiak), told me the other day, 'Man, just make sure everybody's got towels and stuff before they take a shower. Or else they'll bury you.'" Durant said.
This trip to the pros almost didn't happen. Durant was convinced he was returning to the Longhorns until two days before he announced he was entering the NBA "to better myself and my family."
Now, he hangs with fellow rookie Jeff Green &
the fifth overall pick from Georgetown whom Seattle got from Boston on draft day with Szczerbiak and guard Delonte West for Ray Allen &
plus veteran Jermaine Jackson, the chaperone at age 31.
No clubs or chic restaurants for them The mall is more like it.
"I got here on Friday and came to the gym on Saturday," Durant said through a mouthful of Swedish fish candy. "Didn't have my car yet. It was being shipped (not that he is veteran driver, either &
he just got his license last year). So we walked around the mall. And I mean, nobody stopped me.
"I went into a Foot Action. I looked over and saw my jersey and said, 'Ahhh!' That was kind of crazy for me. Nobody recognized who I was, though. That's the best part."
He's rented a new home. Not amid the trendy nightlife of Belltown, just north of downtown. And not in the area around Bellevue, the upscale suburb most of Seattle's professional athletes call home. Instead, it's Mercer Island.
"Nice area. Real nice area," Durant said of the wooden, exclusive suburb across Lake Washington from downtown Seattle &
and 2,774 miles west of his hometown of Suitland, Md.
He shares the same, tony zip code as Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, owner of the Blazers and NFL's Seahawks. Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell, live there, too. It's a place of families and Range Rovers and an award-winning school district &
not of a newly minted bachelor.
Durant is living with his mom, Wanda Pratt. He came home from practice one day and his mother had cookies and cakes from the neighbors.
"I see that in the movies all the time," he said. "But I'd never seen that in real life."
On this day, Durant is wearing a white, open-collared dress shirt, untucked. A black sweater vest is draped over black, baggy, designer jeans. His text messager is within his long reach.
His soft features match a soft voice and warm smile. He is far more understated than the gregarious Oden. For now, there is no girlfriend in the picture.
"No, sir," he said, with a wry smile, as two young women giggle in the back of the room. "Focus on what I got to do."
In addition to his mother, the Mercer Island home now includes cousins Charlie Bell, 24, and Charles "Butch" Johnson, 27, from Maryland. Durant's grandmother is staying for these first two weeks. His dad, Wayne Pratt, is coming for his birthday.
At home, Durant is, well, a teen.
"I have a theater in my house," he said, proudly. "Every day after I come home from practice I go in there and watch 'Entourage' or I play Xbox. I think that's the best invention in the world, a home theater system."
He wants to be "an impact player" in the NBA, "and I think with hard work, I can do that."
There's no mention of becoming rookie of the year, or an All-Star, or of achieving a certain scoring average. The only goals he lists for his debut season are incremental. He wants to shoot 85 percent from the foul line &
it was 82 percent at Texas &
and get his teammates involved in every game.
On the advice of West, he will set monthly goals, not ones for this season or career. And, please, don't call Durant a savior of a franchise that desperately needs one.
"I don't think I'm a savior at all. I'm not the only one on the floor playing, you know. I can't do everything on the floor," he said, speaking forcefully for the only time in a half-hour conversation. "So I don't think it's all on me. I don't know why people are saying, 'Save the organization.' I want to be a team player. That's what my game is all about."
Durant: 'I'm just a rookie'