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Durant is NBA Rookie of the Year; Horford second

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Kevin Durant was so excited to learn he
had just won the NBA Rookie of the Year award, he went back to
sleep.

That's what seven months and 82 games -- more than double the
amount the lanky 19-year-old had played in any previous season --
can do to a teenager.

Fatigue that wasn't apparent while Durant soared in Seattle this
season finally caught up to the SuperSonics' star this week. Then
his mother, Wanda Pratt, woke him up with the news that he had just
joined mentor LeBron James plus Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Oscar
Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain in a legendary legacy of rookie
award winners.

"I was asleep. It was a LONG season," Durant said Thursday
with a smile about Seattle's 20-62 disaster, the worst season in
team history. "My mom woke me up when she got the call. She
screamed. I was happy.

"Then I went back to sleep."

Durant, the national college player of the year at Texas and the
No. 2 overall draft pick last year, was as dreamy as advertised
during an otherwise nightmare season in Seattle.

Despite being the only man opposing teams schemed to stop, the
6-foot-9 Durant averaged 20.3 points, 7.7 more than any other
rookie. He was the only rookie to lead his team in five categories
-- points, blocks, steals, free throws made and free throw
percentage. Durant blocked more shots than any other guard in the
league (75).

The rest of Seattle's season involved losses and lawsuits.

Sonics owner Clay Bennett recently got league approval to move
the team to Oklahoma City. Seattle has a trial date next month, its
effort to make the Sonics play inside KeyArena for the final two
seasons of their lease.

"It's good to shine some light on our team. You know, a lot of
people aren't real fond of our team right now," Durant said.

He recently purchased a home in suburban Seattle. His mother
lives with him. She and Durant's father, Wayne Pratt, joined four
other family members at Thursday's announcement.

"I love Seattle. My home's here. My mother's here," Durant
said, acknowledging where he plays next season is out of his
control.

Durant received 90 first-place votes (545 points) from a panel
of 125 writers and broadcasters. Atlanta's Al Horford finished
second with 390 points, and Houston's Luis Scola was third with
146.

It's all beyond what Durant could have comprehended two years
ago as a senior at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md.

"If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would
be the NBA Rookie of the Year, to be in the same company as LeBron
James, Larry Bird ... I would have told you you were crazy," he
said.

"I didn't think I would get it, because those other rookies
helped their teams get into the playoffs."

Some believe that benchmark should have given Horford the award.
Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo isn't one of them.

"It would have been a travesty if they had picked anyone
else," Carlesimo said minutes before general manager Sam Presti
said the coach "absolutely" will return next season.

Durant said Horford congratulated him on the award Wednesday,
just before Game 5 of the Hawks' surprisingly competitive
first-round playoff series against Boston.

"I'd rather trade this in to be where he's at right now - in
the playoffs," Durant said.

One of the first text messages of congratulations Durant
received was from James, the Cleveland superstar whom Durant calls
a mentor and good friend. Durant attended James' playoff games with
the Cavaliers in Durant's hometown of Washington last weekend.

James was the Rookie of the Year in 2004, when he was 19.

"He told me congratulations. That's when I was thinking like,
'Man, I'm in the same company as LeBron, when he was a rookie,' "
Durant said. "I just smiled inside.

"He's like a big brother to me."

Though Carlesimo said "If he did anything wrong, at times he
made it look too easy," Durant admitted he struggled early in the
season. He said he was taking too many 3-point shots and not
driving to the basket.

After the All-Star break, Durant said he took it upon himself to
be more aggressive. He got higher percentage shots and more chances
at the free throw line. He finished the season by averaging 24.3
points in April, including a season-best 42 in the finale at Golden
State.

Yet he has areas where he wants to improve.

"Post skills. Ball-handling. Shooting," he said. "When I get
bigger and stronger, hopefully my game will take off to the next
level."