CLEVELAND -- It’s only 173 miles between Portland and Seattle, but decisions made 11 years ago by NBA franchises in those cities put them in different time zones.
Those decisions not only altered the trajectory of those franchises but also changed the landscape of the NBA, particularly the Western Conference.
What if Kevin Durant had gone to the Portland Trail Blazers instead of the Seattle SuperSonics?
The Warriors, to be sure, are glad Durant landed in Seattle.
The topic was revived anew Thursday as Cavaliers star LeBron James commented on Durant’s luminescent performance in leading the Warriors to a 110-102 victory Wednesday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
This is the third time that James and Durant have squared off in The Finals. The first, in 2012, came with Durant in Oklahoma City -- where Seattle relocated in 2008 -- and James with Miami. The Heat won in five games, with James earning the Finals MVP award.
James now says he saw enough to convince him that Durant, then only 23, was destined for greatness.
“There's nothing that Kevin Durant could show me at 23 that would make me, like, ‘Oh, years from now . . . ,’ ” James said. “No, Kevin Durant was great at 23. As you get older and older, your game gets more and more seasoned. But everyone knew that. That's Kevin Durant.
“So it's not like you would think that he would fizzle out. You knew he was built for greatness from the time that he was drafted. I mean, everybody knew that besides Portland, I guess. Sorry, Portland. Sorry.”
Portland may have known, too, but not enough to be persuaded to use the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007 to take Durant, the skinny 6-foot-9 teenager who spent one season at Texas. The Trail Blazers selected Ohio State center Greg Oden, whose sturdy 7-foot physique began to deteriorate almost immediately.
The Blazers made their choice despite reportedly being impressed while observing Durant’s workout.
“My workout with Portland, I thought it could have been better,” Durant, taken second overall by Seattle, recalled Thursday. “When they were saying it was a great workout, I knew it wasn't as great as they were saying.
“But I figured at that point they knew who they were going to draft. They just wanted to do their due diligence, I guess.”
Oden played a total of 105 NBA games, 61 of which came in his rookie season. Though the Blazers have reached the playoffs in eight of the last 11 seasons, they have not advanced beyond the second round.
In addition to being a league MVP, a nine-time All-Star and four-time scoring champ, Durant has appeared in four Western Conference Finals and three NBA Finals. As a member of the Thunder and now the Warriors, he has missed the playoffs once in the last nine years.
And after posting 43 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in Game 3, Durant also is one win away from becoming a two-time NBA champion.
|Game 1||Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)|
|Game 2||Warriors 122, Cavs 103|
|Game 3||Warriors 110, Cavs 102|
|Game 4||Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm|
|Game 5||Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm|
|Game 6||Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm|
|Game 7||Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm|