/ |

Durant, Love friends from way back

by Peter Vecsey

Friday night’s 289-point delight, a double-overtime home theater Thunder conquest of the Timberwolves, stimulated trampled memory sprouts of the captivating conflicts between the Nuggets — Alex English, Dan Issel and Kiki Vandeweghe — and the Spurs —George Gervin, Artis Gilmore and Larry Kenon.

All things not being equal, Oklahoma City clearly had the sides. Yet, Minnesota managed to stay even for 53 minutes before its position was overrun (20-11) by superior forces and fire power in the second extra session.

In the end, the T-Wolves unavoidably ran out of ammo.

When the melodious duet of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (“the best tandem since Lenny and Squiggy,” decided Richie Kalikow) deposit 85 points into the Thunder’s savings account, it’s vividly unimaginable any team whose talents aren’t beached in Miami being able to prevail, as Kevin Love’s 51 and pint-sized J.J. Barea’s triple-double colorfully attests.

Meanwhile, as you and I gawked at the above clash of compulsive scorers, Bill Feinberg focused on something totally different.

Durant and Love have been thick as thieves since the seventh grade, relates the long-time confidant of Stan Love, Kevin’s father. They competed at countless AAU tournaments, talked late into many a morning about their future, money, how to keep it, girls, and basketball, texting daily when apart about their recruitment adventures.

For four years, they bunked together at the Nike Skills Camp in Portland.

Even though Love lived down the road, he chose to hang with Durant. In the off hours, Stan would pick them up and bring them to his house, where countless hours were spent shooting the breeze and jumpers in the driveway.

Both understood they would be linked for the next couple of decades on the biggest stages.

Along with Greg Oden, they were the mega stars of the 2006 and ’07 high school classes. At the ’05 NBA Players Association Camp in Richmond, Durant was the MVP, while Love and O.J. Mayo were Co-Players of the Week. Love still needles Durant he would have been MVP had he not arrived a day late.

Roy Williams recruited both, Feinberg recounted.

“Durant had decided on North Carolina, but at the last minute, Williams made a brain-numbing decision with his lone remaining ride. He tabled Durant and chose Brandan Wright instead,” Feinberg said. “Think Roy regrets that one?

“Durant landed on his feet, choosing wisely. One of the important reasons for Texas was its great strength and conditioning coach, Todd Wright.”

In July ’06, at Sonny Vaccaro’s Las Vegas Bigtime Classic, Love announced he had chosen UCLA. The very first call he received was from Durant.

The very first call his parents received was from Wayne and Wanda Durant. Their families were close and remain close.

Love’s road roommate and best friend at UCLA was Westbrook. From day one they clicked.

Love lived off campus in a two-bedroom apartment, and Westbrook would often crash. They clicked on the court, too.

While Ben Howland implored Love not to throw his lethal outlet, Westbrook encouraged it. With a simple nod or wink, Westbrook would release and 25 meters later would sky for a spectacular dunk.

“Many feel Love is the reason for Westbrook’s development,” Feinberg submitted. “It shocked some when he declared for the ’08 draft, but not Love. He knew Westbrook was ready, and that Howland had burned him out.

“Keep in mind, at the time, Westbrook was dominating the famous summer UCLA runs frequented by the much of the best comp the NBA had to offer.”

So, every summer since, it’s no surprise to walk into a high school gym in Santa Monica and find Love, Westbrook and Derrick Rose working out.

That’s five days a week of working out, and working hard. Their trainer is Rob McClanaghan. And yes, they are often joined by Durant, with cameos by Joakim Noah . . . the upper crustaceans of the NBA’s insanely fertile young crop.

When Feinberg, an across-the-board freelance writer, covered the ’06 Jordan Game at Madison Square Garden, he took a picture of Durant getting interviewed, shirtless, in the lockeroom.

Feinberg sent it to Love with the caption: “Please buy this Biafran a meal.”

Love wrote back, “Soon this Biafran will be the scariest offensive player on the planet. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

That’s just what the “experts” did with Kevin Love, Feinberg harrumphed.


Say this much for Raptors’ ruler Dwane Casey . . . the guy pays attention. After Jeremy Lin went 10-for-10 from the line down the Turnpike in Philly, he didn’t sniff the stripe in Friday’s loss.

The Knicks were back in the business of winning Saturday night, beating the Pistons. Despite what Mike Breen said, I knew it was too early to organize a “Fire Mike Woodson” rally.

Did you notice how the Bobcats sullied the Carolina Cougars uniforms on Friday night?

Billy Cunningham, Larry Brown, Joe Caldwell, Mack Calvin, Bob Verga, Larry Miller, Carl Scheer, Tedd Munchak (posthumously), Gene Littles, Tom Owens and George Peebles have hired an attorney and are considering a class action lawsuit for defaming and defacing the ABA team’s good name and legacy. Rumor has it even Marvin Barnes wants in.

Congratulations to Jose Calderon for his unique double-double —10 missed shots in 10 attempts to go along with 10 assists.

Let’s see . . . Boris Diaw, bought out in Charlotte, ends up in San Antonio. Whoever said Michael Jordan can’t build a championship contender/winner apparently wasn’t paying attention last season when he donated Tyson Chandler to the Mavericks.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.