Durant set career highs with 42 points and 13 rebounds in his first professional double-double, and Jeff Green added 27 points to help the SuperSonics win what could have been their final game as a Seattle team, beating the Golden State Warriors 126-121 on Wednesday night.
"Coming into this league, you can't come in and dominate straightaway so I had to go through some learning curves, and my coaches and my teammates helped me out a lot and toward the end of the season," Durant said. "I think I got better and learned how to play the game a little bit more and it was an OK year for me and for the team."
A strong season-ending performance by a pair of talented rookies would normally be a bright spot for fans of a lottery-bound team. But with the NBA Board of Governors set to vote later this week to approve the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City after 41 years in the Emerald City, it's unclear which fans will benefit.
Political leaders in Washington state are trying to delay the vote and there's also the chance a judge will rule the team must occupy the arena for the final two seasons of its lease. But if owner Clay Bennett has his way, the team's next game will be as a franchise in Oklahoma City.
"Seattle's a great place to play," Durant said. "It will be sad since that's my rookie year and I played in a great place like Seattle and if we go somewhere else I'm going to miss it a lot. But that's a part of the game. I can't control whether we move or not, so either way I've got to continue to play the game."
Even by beating Dallas and Golden State in the final two games of the season, the Sonics (20-62) posted the worst record in their history, winning three fewer games than they did in their expansion 1967-68 season.
The Warriors (48-34) head into the offseason with their own uncertainty following the most successful regular season for the franchise since winning 50 games in 1993-94.
Normally, a team with 48 victories would be preparing for the playoffs instead of the draft lottery. But the Warriors were the victim of a power-packed Western Conference that had eight teams reach the 50-victory mark and had been officially eliminated from playoff contention with a 122-116 loss at Phoenix on Monday night.
The Warriors had the most victories by a team that failed to make the playoffs since the league went to the 16-team postseason format in 1984, while Philadelphia (40-42) and Atlanta (37-45) made the playoffs in the East with losing records.
"I hoped for a better ending, but anyway it's over," coach Don Nelson said. "Our inability to handle Durant. What a show he put on. Wow! I knew he was good. He's going to be a superstar. The guy is really something and young."
Nelson said before the game he would decide by around July 1 whether he would return for a third season in his second tenure as coach in Golden State. Star point guard Baron Davis must decide whether he will opt out of his contract and executive vice president Chris Mullin must retool a roster of potential free agents.
Davis, who said he wants to return next season, scored 21 points in 39 minutes after mysteriously being benched for the second half Monday in the loss in Phoenix. Monta Ellis led the way with 24 points, Andris Biedrins had 20 points and 17 rebounds. Rookie Marco Belinelli had a career-high 17 points in some rare extended action.
"He is the best shooter on our team," Biedrins said. "He always believes in his shooting. I am really happy for him to have a good game on the last game of the season."
The Warriors did accomplish one feat, becoming the first team in 17 years to have three players average 20 points per game. Davis finished at 21.8, Ellis at 20.2 and Stephen Jackson at 20.1. The Warriors were also the last team to do it in 1990-91, when Mullin (25.7), Mitch Richmond (23.9) and Tim Hardaway (22.9) pulled off the trick.
- Golden State set a franchise attendance record by averaging 19,631 per game. The team had 32 sellouts in 41 home games.
- Houston missed the playoffs with 45 victories in 2000-01.
- Biedrins led the NBA by shooting 62.6 percent from the field.
- The city of Seattle pulled off a sweep at the Coliseum complex as the Mariners beat the Athletics 4-2 in a baseball game played at the same time.