Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Durant extension cements Thunder as legit

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant takes the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series in Oklahoma City, April 24, 2010. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Sorry, free agency fanatics. You'll have to wait a while for Kevin Durant to hit the market.

OKC's young stud agreed Tuesday to a five-year, $86 million extension to his rookie contract, keeping him in the Midwest through 2016.

This is as noteworthy as the outcomes of LeBron, Wade and Bosh, if in a different way. Durant is showing the kind of steadiness and faithfulness to his team that is all too rare in today's NBA. For every Durant, Deron Williams and Tim Duncan, there's a slew of LeBrons, Boozers and Boshes who value leaving over longevity. The former produces mercenaries. The latter makes icons.

Like Duncan, Durant's name and face are synonymous with his team. This is the best possible outcome for a team only three years removed from relocation. When the Thunder-then-Sonics left Seattle, naysayers questioned the franchise's ability to stay relevant in such a small market. The Thunder's relatively unimpressive logo/name didn't do much to quiet their ridicule.

There's no denying OKC's identity now, not with the Thunder fresh off a playoff appearance and Durant cementing their legitimacy. Besides, if perennial contenders like the Spurs and annual doormats like the Knicks prove anything, market size is overrated. Like the Spurs, look for the Thunder to contend through home-grown products and savvy spending.

The seeds of that are already in place. Like the rest of the team, KD is young, hungry and improving.

It looks like they'll stay that way.