Kevin Durant Comments on Thunder Not Being Seen as NBA Title Contenders

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 13:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder talks with a teammate  during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena on January 13, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   The Thunder defeated the Mavericks 108-89.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant stated Friday night that he isn't surprised his team hasn't been getting more respect as a contender for an NBA championship.

Royce Young of ESPN.com passed along comments from the 2014 MVP, who believes the media doesn't give the Thunder the benefit of the doubt because of how Russell Westbrook and himself have clashed with them in the past. He also provided some further thoughts on the subject:

Especially since we've been together so long. Some of these teams are new, except for the Spurs, who have won. But we haven't won and we've still got the same core, so they don't expect us to win. It is what it is, who cares about them. They don't mean nothing, the critics. Their opinions, everybody has one, but we don't really care about them. Every day we're just going to keep grinding this thing out. We feel like we can compete with anybody.

Oklahoma City is enjoying a terrific season with a winning percentage above .700 at the midway point of the campaign (29-12). Both Durant and Westbrook have been among the league's best, giving the team an extremely dangerous one-two punch come playoff time.

Yet, the dominance of the Golden State Warriors (37-3) and San Antonio Spurs (35-6) has left the Thunder lurking in the shadows.

Young noted that he raised the question about getting overlooked to Durant after Michael Wilbon of Pardon The Interruption stated Friday that the Warriors and Spurs along with the Eastern Conference favorite Cleveland Cavaliers were the only legitimate title threats this season.

That's not an uncommon stance, either. It's almost felt like a foregone conclusion at times that the Warriors and Spurs are on a collision course for the Western Conference Finals with the survivor advancing to face LeBron James and Co. for the title.

Clearly Durant isn't buying into that line of thinking.

Looking ahead, the Thunder certainly have the high-end star power to make a charge with Durant and Westbrook as well as a defensive stalwart in Serge Ibaka. The question is whether their role players can make a big enough impact to compete with the "Big Three" contenders.

So there's pressure on the likes of Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter, among others, to provide steady offensive contributions, especially come playoff time. Oklahoma City could also look to the trade market to find another depth piece before the deadline.

Ultimately, the Warriors and Spurs deserve all the attention they've received so far, but counting out the Thunder in the West would be a mistake.