During the NBA lockout, Kevin Durant didn’t know what to do with himself. The two-time league scoring champ and perennial all-star crisscrossed the country playing in local pick-up games and charity events. Yet that didn’t satisfy his need to be playing basketball.

The 23-year old Durant found himself late at night thinking about just playing basketball. Somewhere.

“It was tough,” Durant said. “There were times I’d wake up and you’d just want to play. I’d call my agent and say can you look for some jobs oversees. Then I was hearing the talks were going well. The sources, everybody got sources that would say the talks are going well. Then it stooped for a while. It was up and down. I didn’t know which way it was going.”

The NBA season kicked-off SUnday when the Thunder hosted the Orlando Magic at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was the first game in a compressed schedule that will have only 66 games in 118 days. But one Durant and his teammates were looking forward to getting started.

“It feels like a rookie just getting drafted,” Durant said. “You take so much time off. I am just excited for the fans get to enjoy the game again. We get to play the game we love. I’m looking forward to it.”

During the lockout, Durant was the most visible player in the NBA. From scorching the famed Rucker Park in New York for 66 points to playing flag football in Stillwater, he made use of his time away from work. That included hosting an all-star charity basketball game across the street from the Peake.

Durant was basically the face of the locked out players.

Yet, that doesn’t mean Durant wasn’t working on his game.

“He came back stronger,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He is adding a little bit of muscle to his frame. His post-up game, we are going to continue to build on that. We’ve made steps the last three or four years with that. Think this year you will see another step.”

To hear that Durant added some bulk to his frame may come as a surprise to fans. He is listed at 6-foot, 230-pounds. His first few years, he barely seemed to weigh more than 200. The added muscle should help him get through the grind that lies before him.

“I feel good,” Durant said. “I looked in the mirror before training camp and I actually looked fat. Maybe I need to slow my eating. I feel good. I am excited we get to play. It’s so much fun playing for a great city like Oklahoma City. Something I’ve been looking forward to for a few months. I think my adrenaline will push me through the whole season.”

In his first four seasons, Durant has averaged 38 minutes per game. There is very little chance it will dip below that this season. In his first two outings this year he has hit the 30-point barrier in both games.

But Durant will be asked to do more than ever before.

“As you go through a season that we went through last year and the playoffs games, you learn about yourself,” Brooks said. “You learn about the team. And you figure out ways you could have done better. We’ve talked to Kevin. He’s an incredible scorer. But I think he can really do a better job at being a playmaker. That will not take away from his scoring because we need his scoring.”

Like his team, a lot is expected of Durant this season. Claiming another scoring title, and winning the league MVP are just a few of the expectations that have been placed before him.

Yet, for him it begins and ends with how far the Thunder go into the postseason.

“Those are some lofty expectations,” Durant said. “I just try to go to work every day, try to be a professional, try to be the best player I can be. Work as hard as I can and I just have to live with the results. Hopefully, my time will come for that. But the way we play as a team dictates everything as far as individual accolades.”

Michael Kinney 366-3537 mkinney@mooreamerican.com

This Week's Circulars