“That group was so special, that whole group from 2010 until I left there, it was special,” Durant told ESPN. “It’s about time for us to let go of all that extra stuff, and just come together — especially around this time, because it’s Nick.”
The Thunder are aware of Durant’s plans to attend the ceremony and are glad to accommodate him, sources said. Scores of ex-Sonics and Thunder teammates from Collison’s 15-year career are expected into Oklahoma City for the event. Durant has long credited Collison’s leadership in easing his transition into the NBA when Durant arrived as the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft. He spent a season with Collison in Seattle prior to the franchise relocating, and eight more together in OKC.
Durant’s departure for the Warriors — where he’s won consecutive NBA titles — was met with a harsh reaction in Oklahoma City, but time has passed and Durant emphasized to ESPN that he continues to hold the city, fans and organization in high-esteem. Durant was part of four Western Conference finalists and an NBA Finals runner-up in 2012 in his nine seasons with the organization.
Durant will travel from the Warriors game on March 19 in Minneapolis to Oklahoma City for the March 20 event, he said. The Warriors are home against Indiana on March 21.
For those thinking that this could be Durant’s way of starting a pathway back to the Thunder in free agency this summer, think again: There’s no interest on either side for a basketball reconciliation. Both Durant and the Thunder have moved on, with OKC reshaping a new contender around Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
For Durant and the Thunder, it appears to be a one-time return engagement that centers around something they both agree on: A fondness and appreciation for Nick Collison’s career with the franchise.
ESPN’s Royce Young contributed to this report.