The Mavericks finished the job on Wednesday, coming from behind late for the second straight game to advance to the NBA Finals. The Thunder’s season came to an end, but it was much more due to the fantastic play of Dirk Nowitzki than it was due to any shortfalls in play from Kevin Durant.
The Thunder’s main man had his share of heroic moments in the series, and played the role of superstar for his team admirably, finishing with averages of 28 points, 9.4 rebounds, and four assists over the five-game series. While Durant has always been polite and pleasant during postgame interviews, we saw the competitor in him sneak out just a bit after Game 5, when a question about Nowitzki’s success was thrown his way at the postgame podium.
Durant was essentially asked how he felt about seeing Nowitzki succeed at his expense, getting back to the Finals at this stage of his career after so many missed opportunities. To be honest, this was not the most intelligent of questions to be lobbed at the best player of the team which just got bounced from the postseason, but Durant handled it both honestly and admirably. Check out his response in the video clip below.
“I’m not happy at all,” Durant answered. “I’m a competitor, man, I really didn’t care about what he went through the last three or four years. I know it’s been tough for him; he lost three of the last four years in the first round. I’m sure he’s happy now that he’s going back to the Finals, but I’m not happy for him at all because I wanted to be there.”
Durant chuckled when he began to answer, and there was laughter in the room as he delivered that opening line. But really, this was the only way to handle a question like this under these circumstances.
Certainly, whoever asked the question was working on a story about Nowitzki’s struggles, and this season’s story of redemption in getting back to the Finals. He was clearly looking for a sympathetic quote from one of Dirk’s All-Star peers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But at the same time, you have to understand the feelings on the other side, and that a young, fiery competitor like Durant isn’t simply going to heap praise on the best player of the team that just officially ended his own dream of getting to the Finals this season.
Durant’s answer was perfect; it didn’t come across as angry or bitter, and he still managed to seem affable while verbalizing his distaste for the question, and in a larger sense, the outcome of the series. It wasn’t only the competitive way he responded that was impressive, but the way he delivered it without animosity made him seem even more likable in the process.
It wasn’t a great question, and the timing of it was even worse. But Durant’s response showed that this loss will sting for a long time, and that as a young, competitive superstar in this league, he’s not simply willing to accept defeat, even though it came as close as possible to the highest stage the sport has to offer.