But Durant has his moments, too. He goes coast to coast for a layup, cleverly using 6'9" rookie teammate Jeff Green as a screen when he gets in the lane. (Carlesimo wants Seattle to be an up-tempo team, having hired Mr. Transition, Paul Westhead, as his top assistant, and both can envision Durant taking off with a rebound on a one-man break or sprinting downcourt to finish off a long pass.) On one occasion Durant overplays Anthony to his left and effortlessly blocks Melo's jumper. It's unlikely that Durant will ever be a lockdown defender—players so long have trouble getting into that cobra-strike position—but Carlesimo will play a lot of scramble zone, trying to force tempo by creating turnovers and by making opponents take quick shots, a seemingly ideal defense for the long-armed Durant (he has a 7'4 3/4" wingspan), who finishes with three steals.
After the game, Durant sits at his locker staring at a box score that, steals aside, reads like a mediocre transcript from his one year at Texas: 18 points (on 7-of-22 shooting), five rebounds, one assist, one block. Durant will no doubt lead the known world in 7-of-22s this season; he is a perimeter shooter who won't get many easy baskets and a rookie who won't get many officials' calls. He showers and returns to find a crowd of reporters surrounding his locker, forcing him to execute that trickiest of maneuvers—wriggling into boxer shorts while still wearing a towel. No other Sonic is of interest to the fourth estate, and there is a real danger that all the oxygen will be sucked out of the area immediately in front of Durant's locker. "KD," Wilcox shouts at his swarmed teammate in a good-natured but mocking tone, "I seeeee you!"
Many a team has been ruined by a vastly uneven distribution of publicity, particularly when the object is so callow; some Bulls deeply resented the notoriety surrounding Jordan, who was practically Lord of the NBA before he played his first game. Fellow rookie Green, the fifth pick, out of Georgetown, says it's no problem for him—"Kevin and I are both just trying to get by, learn the game, find ourselves as pros"—but Collison, the starting center and longest tenured Sonic at four seasons, acknowledges the potential for jealousy.
"Sure, guys notice it," he says. "But I don't sense anyone is worried about it. Kevin doesn't seem bothered by the attention, and in some way he's embraced it without being arrogant. But everything is so new here that we're all just trying to find our way. Including Kevin."
Durant's responses are blander than broth, but how much perspective can one expect from a teenager after one NBA game? I just told myself to go out and have fun. I was nervous but the butterflies went away. I learned a lot. There's 81 more games to go, and we're going to get better.
His parents, Wanda and Wayne Pratt, are waiting for him back in the arena. (Wanda Durant gave birth to Kevin before she married Wayne, so the son was a Durant; she changed her name after they tied the knot.) "You played great, baby," says Wanda as her son reaches down to hug her.
Wanda made the decision to live with Kevin this season, but her son was all for it. "She can make me a better person and make the transition easier," he says, "so why not?" It's a one-year deal, up for renewal after this season, but Durant says, "I'm probably going to sign her back up." Wanda, who will travel to several of Kevin's road games this season, says she won't stay if she's not wanted in the comfortable house they rent on a Mercer Island cul-de-sac. "A mother knows when to back off," she says. (Wayne will remain at the family home in Suitland, Md., to support their son Tony Durant, a junior forward at Towson State.)
But doesn't the arrangement hinder Kevin's, uh, social life? "He respects me enough that he does not bring anyone home," Wanda says. When her questioner raises an eyebrow, she quickly adds, "I'm not saying he doesn't meet women—he's in the NBA, he's young and he's handsome, right? I'm just saying he doesn't bring them home." Kevin later confirms this.
GAME 2: NOV. 1, VS. PHOENIX SUNS
DURANT CROSSES paths with Suns guard Steve Nash before the game at Key Arena. The two-time MVP nods at him and says, "Hey, Kevin," leaving the young man stupefied. "I couldn't believe he knew my name," Durant confides later. Phoenix assistant coach Alvin Gentry is taken aback by his first brush with Durant. "I just saw your two guard and he's taller than anybody we got," Gentry tells Westhead, "so I think we're going home."