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Originally published May 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 1, 2008 at 3:17 PM


Sonics' Kevin Durant named NBA rookie of the year

Sonics' Kevin Durant was a winner today in voting for NBA rookie of the year. He is the first Sonics player to win the award.

Seattle Times staff reporter

More than points

Kevin Durant separated himself from peers with late-game heroics.

Nov. 16 at Atlanta: Just 10 games into his NBA career, Durant stakes his claim to the rookie of the year award with a dramatic game-winning three-pointer. With the score tied at 123 in the second overtime, the 19-year-old rookie sinks a trey over rookie Al Horford as time expires to give the Sonics a victory. He finishes with 21 points.

Jan. 14 vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Trailing 115-112, Durant forces overtime with a three-pointer with 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Sonics lose 123-121 in the extra period.

Jan. 29 vs. San Antonio: Trailing 85-84 against the defending champions, Durant drains a go-ahead jump shot with 32 seconds remaining. The Sonics win 88-85 and the victory snaps a team-record 14-game losing streak.

Feb. 2 vs. New York: Tied at 83, Durant sinks a go-ahead three-pointer with 59 seconds left. The Sonics win 86-85 and Durant finishes with 21 points.

March 2 at Minnesota: The Sonics trail 102-100 before Durant converts a driving layup with four seconds left that ties the game and forces overtime. In the extra period, he connects on three of four three throws in the final 17 seconds to overcome a one-point deficit. Seattle wins, 111-108.

April 6 vs. Denver: Durant rebounds from the worst shooting night of his career, a 2-for-17 performance, and drops a three-pointer from the top of the key with 22 seconds left to send the game into overtime. In the second overtime, the Sonics trail 135-132 before the rookie hits a three-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to force a second overtime. Seattle wins, 151-147.

Percy Allen

In the end, the rookie of the year debate wasn't much of a debate at all.

Buoyed by gaudy scoring statistics, Kevin Durant overcame his team's dismal record and a pedestrian class of first-year players to become the first Sonics player to win the award.

The 19-year-old shooting guard collected the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy this morning at a news conference at T-Mobile's headquarters in Bellevue.

Durant, who was a college star as a freshman at Texas, was the second overall selection in the 2007. He received 90 of 125 possible first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Atlanta forward Al Horford finished second and Houston forward Luis Scola was third.

Even though Durant was the only player this season to win five of the six Western Conference rookie of the month honors, there had been doubts he'd collect the rookie of the year award because Horford and Scola were solid contributors for playoff teams.

The knock against Durant was the Sonics' 20-62 record. Seattle suffered an 11-game decline from the previous season and had the worst record in the 41-year history of the franchise.

Portland's Brandon Roy and New Orleans' Chris Paul, both near-unanimous ROY selections the past two years, helped improve their team's record as rookies. The Trail Blazers were 11 games better with Roy and the Hornets won 18 more games with Paul.

Durant didn't prevent the Sonics from falling to unprecedented lows but his development as a torrential scorer and his late-game heroics were among the few bright spots in a disappointing season.

Twice he drained game-winning three-pointers in the final minute, including a buzzer beater at Atlanta. He canned three treys in the final seconds to force overtime and scored at least 30 points seven times, including a career high 42 in the regular-season finale at Golden State.

Without Portland center Greg Oden, the top pick in last year's draft who suffered season-ending knee surgery, the ROY race became a chase to catch Durant.

Horford averaged 10.1 points and 9.7 rebounds and Scola averaged 10.3 and 6.4 but they weren't as spectacular as Durant, who led all rookies in scoring with 20.3 points per game.

Durant's average of 20.3 points per game is the highest for a rookie since Carmelo Anthony (21.0) and LeBron James (20.9) in the 2003-04 season. Just three of the past 10 ROY winners (Durant, James and Elton Brand) have averaged at least 20 points and only three teenagers (Durant, James and Anthony) have averaged at least 20 points.

In 80 games, Durant was also first among rookies in assists (192), free-throw percentage (87.3) and free throws attempted (448) and made (391). He was second in steals (78) and third in field-goal percentage (43.0), blocks per game (.84) and three-point field goals (59).

For wining the award, Durant will receive roughly $250,000 in bonuses through contracts with endorsers.

Durant is the first Sonics player to win a postseason individual award since Ray Allen received the Sportsmanship trophy in 2003.

Sonics postseason award winners

Year - Winner - Award

2002-03 Ray Allen - Sportsmanship

1998-99 Hersey Hawkins - Sportsmanship

1995-96 Gary Payton - Defensive player of the year

1993-94 Bob Whitsitt - Executive of the year

1986-87 Dale Ellis - Most improved player

1982-83 Zollie Volchok - Executive of the year

1975-76 Slick Watts - Citizenship

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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