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News » When winners lose

When winners lose

When winners lose
Thunder players like Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook hail from successful college programs.How have these players coped with going from winning in college to a team with the NBA's worst record?

Kevin Durant vividly remembers all 10 losses during his 35 games at Texas two years ago.

He can spout details from his first collegiate loss, a two-point heartbreak at Michigan State, give play-by-play of the triple overtime classic against Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Durant always will remember walking off the floor after a season-ending, 19-point loss to USC.

But at this level, Durant lost track of the losses long ago.

"It's so many games that you've got to forget them," Durant said.

So many losses that he and his teammates have no choice but to employ selective memory as a means to endure.

Since drafting Durant and Jeff Green in 2007, the Thunder franchise is just 28-96, four losses from doubling the defeats Durant, Green and rookie Russell Westbrook had in their combined five college seasons.

"I use the analogy that before you walk you have to crawl," Durant said. "Tough times don't last forever, especially with a team that's been working this hard. If we always work together and always know that we can get better, the only way to go is up."

Green went 72-30 in his three years at Georgetown and led the Hoyas to the Final Four in his junior season. Westbrook's UCLA teams went 65-10 during his two years on campus, and the Bruins made the Final Four both seasons.

But with so many losses piling up so early in the careers of the Thunder's young trio, there seems to be a natural risk of losing habits setting in despite their backgrounds of winning cultures.

"As long as I stay focused, I think I'll be all right," Westbrook said. "There are a lot of games throughout the year. We've just got to continue playing hard, and everything else will be all right."

Nick Collison said the Thunder's current misfortune should make his teammates appreciate their previous success, whether it was in college or the pros. But the adjustment to losing, Collison said, takes time.

"There's a huge adjustment," said Collison, whose Kansas Jayhawks teams went 113-29 during his four seasons. "If you lose a game in college, it was so rare. Plus, there's so fewer games that it's harder to get over losses just because they don't happen as often.

"Here, you have to be able to play the next night. You can't let a loss affect you the next night. I think that was a tough adjustment, to not let what happened in the past affect your confidence or performance the next night."

Players have handled the losing different ways. Durant said he takes solace in encouragement from friends on other teams and the hard work he sees the team putting in in practice. Collison said he essentially leaves the job at the office.

"The best thing I think to do is when you're away from the game, be completely away from it and try not to think about it or talk about it because it can wear on you," Collison said. "You can't let it consume your whole life, otherwise you won't be happy and you won't play well. Some days are better than others, but I definitely play better when I'm able to let it go."

Said Durant: "It's always tough to lose no matter where you come from. You always want to win in everything you do. And for us to lose, especially the way we're losing, is tough. Guys are tired of it."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 22, 2009


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