Kevin Durant Shows Why He Is Ultimate Teammate on SI Cover
The magazine wanted Durant to pose for the cover of the Oct. 25 basketball preview issue, which hits newsstands Wednesday. The high-scoring forward said that was fine as long as he was joined on the cover by Sefolosha, a Swiss guard, and Krstic, a Serbian center.
"Yeah, basically I had to say it like that,'' Durant said before the Thunder's preseason game Tuesday at Denver.
Durant, regarded by many as the ultimate team player despite having led the NBA in scoring last season, didn't want to pose by himself. But why didn't he want to be joined by fellow Thunder top players Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green?
"Everybody knows about Jeff and Russell,'' Durant said.
So enter Sefolosha and Krstic, two guys people don't know much about. Well, actually folks did learn a bit more about Krstic last summer but it wasn't because of a positive situation. He was suspended for the first three games of the World Championship due to throwing a chair in a fight during an exhibition game against Greece.
But now, while Elvis Presley had the Jordanaires, Durant has Sefolosha and Krstic, whom he handpicked for Sports Illustrated and who are in the background while Durant is on the foreground for the cover.
"People don't really know about them too much for some odd reason,'' said Durant, who didn't play against the Nuggets due to Thunder coach Scott Brooks giving him his first game off this preseason. "So it was good to have them in there with me ... People don't really talk about them too much, but they're playing a role. They're guys we have to have on this team. So I want everybody to know how much they're important to us and what great teammates they are. So it was the chance to voice my opinion, and I'm glad Sports Illustrated put them on the cover with me.''
For those still learning about the two, Sefolosha averaged 6.0 points last season while starting all 82 games and is a solid defender while Krstic averaged 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds as a starter.
"That just shows K.D.'s character, him knowing that he's not doing it all by himself and he realizes it,'' Green said of Durant's choices for the cover. "He knows it's a team effort. To do that is big. You don't see a lot of guys who would do that, and it shows his character.''
If anybody knows Durant's character, it's Thunder general manager Sam Presti. He wasn't surprised by Durant's move.
"It speaks to Kevin as a teammate and as an individual,'' Presti said. "Clearly, he personifies a lot of the values we're striving to build with as an organization. That's appreciated by the guys he plays with.''
As for the Thunder, being on the cover of SI is further illustration the team hardly is a secret anymore. Oklahoma City went a surprising 50-32 last season, and gave the eventual champion Lakers quite a battle in the first round of the playoffs before falling 4-2.
Oklahoma City is now expected by many to advance in the playoffs next spring. Does that put any extra pressure on the team?
"For us, the pressure we put on ourselves is staying true to who we are, understanding that we have to continue to take steps forward and being able to stay consistent as we go through some good times and some tough times,'' Presti said. "For us to continue to improve, we can't just show up and play. It's going to have to happen on the practice court. We've got a long way to go before we're where we want to be.''
Stay tuned to see if there's any extra pressure on Sefolosha and Krstic now that a lot more people figure to be talking about them.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson