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Originally published June 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 28, 2007 at 9:25 AM

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Steve Kelley

Durant, Hawes are best friends taking big step

They grew up a continent apart. Kevin Durant was raised in the helter swelter of Washington, D. C., Spencer Hawes in the lush comfort of...

Seattle Times staff columnist

NEW YORK -- They grew up a continent apart.

Kevin Durant was raised in the helter swelter of Washington, D.C., Spencer Hawes in the lush comfort of a house on a hill in Seattle.

Durant was too poor to afford the pair of Ken Griffey Jr. sneakers he wanted so badly.

Hawes lived in the home with a postcard view and went to high school in the quiet cocoon of Seattle Prep.

They are as different as the perimeter and the post, but they were brought together by basketball. The game became their glue.

"We played Spencer's team [Friends of Hoop] in AAU ball five times," Durant said at Wednesday afternoon's NBA predraft media event. "We battled every time. We just went at each other and respected each other's game. Then we played together on a USA team in France and we just clicked.

"We call each other best friends. He'd do anything for me and I'd do anything for him."

Across the geographical divide and a metaphorical world apart, Kevin Durant and Spencer Hawes discovered they had the same passion for playing.

They developed the same value system, learned the same work ethic, dreamed the same dreams.

They met at the Nike basketball camp after their sophomore years in high school. Since then they've texted and talked and teased each other, predicting the arc of their NBA careers. Tonight, in a theater at Madison Square Garden, both are expected to go high in the NBA draft.

Durant, 18, probably is coming to Seattle. And Hawes, 19, certainly is leaving the city.

"There's just that natural connection that you have because of basketball," Hawes said. "We've been playing in the same games and going through the same process. You get that much closer, and then you become friends past just seeing each other at all the events.

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"Both of us have that same fire when we're on the court. A few days ago, in Seattle, we kind of went head-to-head and that competitiveness all came out. Even though it was only three-on-three, we went at each other pretty hard."

Durant spent a large chunk of this month in Seattle, working out and meeting with his agents, Aaron and Eric Goodwin. Almost every day, Hawes rescued Durant from his hotel.

They went to parties and concerts and casinos together. They relaxed at Hawes' Queen Anne home. And they played one series of epic three-on-three games with Washington players Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, Tim Morris and former Husky Jeffrey Day.

They threw down game-long gauntlets. It's what they do.

"I still remember a shot Kevin hit at Nike camp," Hawes said. "He crossed Brandan Wright over and just threw it up from about 23 feet. I mean, watching how effortlessly he did it, then the way he just turned around when he knew it went in, that shot still stands out in my mind.

"But then there also was the time he dunked on me in Vegas. I try not to remember that too much. The first time I saw I saw him I thought he was just a skinny kid. It didn't take me very long, though, to realize what he can do."

Durant is a player. Is he a savior?

If Portland does what it should do with the first pick and drafts Ohio State center Greg Oden, Seattle will follow with Durant. And, although he refuses to admit it, Durant will be expected to help save the franchise.

"You've got Ray Allen there, one of the best players to ever play the game," Durant said. "To think that I'm going to save the franchise, I'm just trying to help him out."

Still, Durant has gotten the requisite pep talk from his best friend and lifelong Sonics fan.

"I've told him he's got to lead the campaign now," Hawes said. "And I think it's something, if anyone can do it, especially with the attention and exposure he's going to bring to the city, Kevin can do it. I think Seattle's a great market and, personally, I think it would be a great place for Kevin to play.

"It will be fun for me, just as a Sonics fan, to see him in a Sonics uniform, with all the controversy on whether the team's leaving or not. To have someone like that to rally around, I think that would be a big step to possibly getting them to stay in Seattle."

Durant and Hawes and this draft class of 2007 are the best arguments the NBA has for its future. Durant, from the University of Texas, and Hawes, from Washington, are bright and mature beyond their years.

They've played such competitive basketball against such elevated competition for so many years. They are ready for this next giant step.

Even at 18, Durant is mature enough to understand who should be chosen first.

"We're going to be linked together for a long time, but you have to make [Oden] the No. 1 pick. I can't argue with that," he said. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime center. He's so quick and agile for being seven feet. He gets off the ground very quickly. He jumps so high and runs so fast.

"I've never seen that in a center before. Not even Shaquille [O'Neal]. Not even Tim Duncan. That's something that's going to separate him from the best."

You see, this class is different. It is supportive, not jealous of each other. Last March, Hawes and his family went to Spokane, sat in back of the Texas bench and watched Durant and the Longhorns play in the NCAA subregional.

"Coming and watching me play, that was big-time," Durant said. "That's a good friend."

Different kids from different places. Best friends from high school taking it all the way into the league.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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