<
>

Lights, camera ... waiting for NBA action

With Kevin Durant, it always comes back to basketball, even when he's filming his first motion picture.

There are lockout casualties -- such as the cancellation of 43 preseason games -- and there are lockout byproducts, including Durant's chance to show up on the big screen.

If not for the lockout, "I probably wouldn't have been in it," Durant said by phone while on set for the movie "Switch." "I would have been in Oklahoma City, working out with the guys.

"I'm kind of glad I got this opportunity to do it. I feel comfortable. Everybody's making me feel comfortable. The only thing I request is I get a chance to go in the gym every morning."

Durant works out at least two hours per day, getting in some running with members of the LSU basketball team while shooting the Warner Bros. film on campus in Baton Rouge, La. He still sounds more excited talking about basketball than talking about his acting debut.

Durant's role isn't a stretch. He's playing himself, only a version who mysteriously swaps basketball abilities with a dorky teenager. The hardest part might have been a scene that required Durant to miss shots badly after his shooting skills had transferred. (He still swished one while trying his best to brick.)

"It was a little tough. I've spent my whole life trying to focus on making shots," he said. "To miss some was different. I've missed a lot in my career, though."

Durant has missed 3,209 field goals during his four NBA seasons, to be precise. Still, he's scored more points than anyone in the league for two years running. When you think of Durant, you think of that skinny guy pouring in buckets, with the highest points-per-pound ratio you can imagine.

When you stop to think about what we'd be missing if this labor impasse deprives us of part or all of the NBA season, the chance to see what Durant and the Thunder will do next is near the top of the list.

The last time I saw him, he was walking out of American Airlines Center in Dallas, backpack slung over his shoulders, disconsolate after being eliminated by the Mavericks in the fifth game of the Western Conference finals. Some four months later, he has come to appreciate the positives of the season, in which the Thunder won 55 regular-season games and two playoff series.

Can they maintain the momentum? The young Thunder built on their first trip to the playoffs the year before by spending so much time playing together at the team facility in Oklahoma City the summer afterward. Durant says that's no longer necessary.

"We're starting to grow up as a team," he said. "We don't always need to be around the coaches and be around each other for us to grow together. We have a lot of veterans around our team that know that. Me and Russ [Westbrook] are mature for our age."

Durant spent the summer playing on the blacktop at Rucker Park in New York City and gone head-to-head with LeBron James in a Melo League game in Baltimore. He'll consider playing in Europe but says, "I've got to see what's going on with the lockout, give some thought to it."

No, I'm going to stick to playing basketball.

-- Kevin Durant on his future in movies

He needs to be playing in the NBA. That's something that isn't lost in the middle of a phone call from a movie set. He lets out a heavy sigh while talking about the financial issues at stake in the lockout. He sounds frustrated that his old school, Texas, keeps popping up in the middle of all of this college conference realignment talk.

"Tradition is a big part of why kids go to schools, the foundation that's been laid before," Durant said. "It's kind of being turned [into] a business right now. Hopefully it gets back to doing things for the love and for the kids. That's what it's all about."

Durant still has the love. Not even four years of exposure to every aspect of the business side of the NBA -- from franchise relocation to teammates being traded -- has erased that. He just doesn't have the proper place to showcase his affinity for the game. The lockout even affects the movie. They can't shoot scenes in NBA facilities or with NBA uniforms until the lockout ends.

Then again, maybe there's a future with this acting thing ...

"No," Durant said. "I'm going to stick to playing basketball."