Kevin Durant didn’t want to watch, but he did. Before walking off the court after Game 5 of the NBA Finals ended, the Oklahoma City all-star took time to watch Miami celebrate winning the NBA Championship.
Durant said it was painful, but he wanted the memory of that celebration to stay with him.
“Very upsetting,” Durant said. “Those guys over there, they were the better team. I hate to admit that. You have to give them their credit. It was tough to watch them celebrate. But it’s something I want to picture in my head and I will remember for the whole summer. Hopefully next year, we come back even stronger.”
Durant and the rest of the Thunder met with the media Saturday for the final time this season to discuss the NBA finals, highlights of 2011-12 season and contracts negotiations.
But each player mentioned how much the experience of playing in the NBA Finals will help the franchise in the future.
“It was a great experience, playing at the highest stage of basketball,” Durant said. “As a kid, that’s what you dream about, competing for a title. Unfortunately, we came up short. That was a great lesson for us. Sometimes you learn a lot from failures. That’s going to fuel us.”
Russell Westbrook will use the same motivation in the offseason.
“I will remember just the feeling,” Westbrook said. “All of the guys knows what it feels like to walk off the court and not be champions. I think that’s going to push a lot of the guys. I know that’s going to push me to come back better.”
Oklahoma City lost 4-1 to the Miami in what was a hotly contested series for four games. In the final minutes of Game 5 on Thursday, coach Scott Brooks had his team huddle around him to give them a speech that was caught on national TV that dealt with the future and what the team can learn from losing the way they did to the Heat.
“At that point, the game was over,” Brooks said. “Not that I conceded and said we can’t come back from a 25-point deficit. But there’s messages that you can send throughout the game, throughout the season. I thought that was an important message to send.”
Brooks’ contract with the Thunder ended after the NBA Finals. He said he wants to come back to Oklahoma City and believes he will sit down with general manager Sam Presti in a couple of days to discuss a new contract.
The players said they want Brooks back, but realize it’s a business first, especially when it comes to contracts.
One of those players the Thunder will be looking to lock up long term is James Harden. He and Serge Ibaka both will have an opportunity to sign long-term deals next year to keep the core of the team intact for the foreseeable future.
Harden doesn’t sound like he wants to go anywhere else.
“There is something special here,” Harden said. “A dynasty is being built here.”
Harden is coming off a subpar NBA finals where the Heat focused on stopping him and took him out of each game. He received a large share of the blame as the reason Oklahoma City failed to win.
Harden’s teammates said that’s just going to make the 6th Man of the Year come back with a vengeance.
“He will come back better than ever,” Nazr Mohammed said of Harden. “He’s going to look at this as something to prove. He saw what they did to him. He will improve and make them pay.”
The players now know exactly what is required of them to get back to the finals, and what it takes to win.
“We want to get back,” Durant said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It wasn’t easy getting there. It will be even tougher next year. We don’t have two make any major changes. We don’t have to get a whole new team in here. We just have to stick to what we’ve been doing.”