Column: For KD and OKC, it’s time

In this Feb. 11, 2015, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots in front of Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

It’s time for the Oklahoma City Thunder to win a championship. 

On Wednesday, the Thunder received news from general manager Sam Presti that star forward Kevin Durant had been cleared to participate in basketball activities. 

Arguably the best scorer in the game, Durant didn’t see much time on the court last season. He was limited to 27 games in 2014 due to a right foot Jones fracture, for which he underwent three surgeries to repair. 

All Durant could do was watch as Russell Westbrook and the rest of his teammates missed the playoffs. 

In August, Durant participated in noncontact drills at the USA Basketball minicamps. Now, he’s healthy and ready to go. And he better be. 

Durant is entering the final year of his fiveyear contract extension that he signed in 2010. With free agency looming in 2016 and the salary cap scheduled to rise once again after this season, if Durant doesn’t win a championship this year with the Thunder, he will leave Oklahoma City in the summer. 

Oklahoma City is fully equipped to make a run at the championship this season, as long as Durant stays healthy. They have the pieces to do so. 

Although they just hired former Florida Gators’ coach Billy Donovan as their head coach, that is no reason to think they can’t make a run at a title. 

Westbrook and Durant provide one of (if not the most) deadly one-two combinations in the league. And you add Serge Ibaka, rising center Enes Kanter and former No. 4 overall pick Dion Waiters to round out their starting lineup, they are in real good shape. 

The biggest problem that OKC will have to face is its opposition. They play in the Western Conference, which is considerably more difficult than the Eastern Conference. With all the talent that the Thunder have, many teams have reloaded in the West and will be tough to beat. 
But Durant and Westbrook are more than capable of taking them there. Both are capable of putting up 30 points a game on a regular basis. Although some critics think that Durant and Westbrook aren’t good for each other on the court, we’ve seen them be successful together before. 

But when it comes down to it, Durant is going to be the man on OKC. He’s one of the most prolific scorers that the NBA has seen in a long time. He can score from anywhere on the court and is almost impossible to defend. 

With Durant’s size, he can create matchup problems and cause the defense to stretch. But with his size, a foot injury should not be taken lightly, especially knowing he had three surgeries last year. 

Will he be on a minutes’ restriction when this season starts? Presti gave an answer for that. 

“Average minutes? I don't know. I think that's the most important thing. Are there going to be games where he plays more than the average? Probably,” Presti said. “But I think you have to factor in it's 82 games and where you want to be at a certain point and where the schedule is and where opportunities might be to take some time. But he's going to play a lot of minutes because he can, but we're going to be really diligent with how those minutes will be distributed.” 

As long as Durant feels healthy, play him as much as he can take. This team needs him to be on the court as much as his foot can handle. 

Durant is so much fun to watch and hopefully he can stay healthy and lead the Thunder to a championship. If not, it could be his last year in Oklahoma City.


Matt Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets  @Matt_Zamp.