IF DURANT ISN'T up for hosting duty, there's no shortage of luxe hotels nearby. The W Seattle earns high marks for its urban style and spa facilities, while the Fairmont Olympic Hotel offers old-school luxury. Hotel Max, known in a prior incarnation as the Vance Hotel, boasts quirk to spare - in its artistic decor, multiple pillow choices, and "spiritual menu" (their words, not ours). "I hope [my former teammates] stay with me, though," Durant adds with a laugh. And then, with a half skip, he's back off to the court.
After having been poked and posed for the past two hours, Bird and Durant have more or less exhausted their small-talk allowances. But when they sit down together in the near-empty Key Arena for a few brief minutes, the back-and-forth flows freely. A quick question about clubs in the area - Bird points Durant toward the O'Asian and the futuristic Venom - leads to a rather spirited debate about the best local pizza. Bird champions the pizza at Pagliacci, a Seattle mainstay. "It's got a thin crust, it's not heavy, and it's huge. Really good," she says. Durant looks semiconvinced.
When Bird repeats her best-burger-in-town recommendation, Durant, who polished off a four-inch-thick Dick's burger in roughly five bites during the first leg of the photo session, nods knowingly. Then, despite his claim that he knows little about the city's hot spots, Durant passes along a recommendation of his own: Seastar Restaurant in Bellevue, just outside Seattle.
“The crab legs — that’s what I had. They open them up for you so that you don’t have to do the work,” he says. Then he quickly adds, “But I don’t mind the work.” Bird counters by hyping the seafood at both Flying Fish and Cutters Bayhouse. “You like that kind of stuff, you’re in the right place,” she says.
The conversation closes with the veteran passing along a few first-year tips on coping and getting around to the newbie. Though Durant doesn’t acknowledge feeling any of the new-city jitters that Bird says she experienced during her first season (perhaps because he hasn’t, you know, really lived here yet), he asks her how she managed to familiarize herself with Seattle. “I just got in my car and drove,” she responds. “I didn’t know where I was going, but I was like, I’m going to figure it out. That’s how you get to know Seattle, whether you live here or not.”
With that, Bird and Durant exchange a quick handshake and are off. Durant, however, can’t resist taking one last shot with a ball that he found wedged under a courtside seat. He dribbles once, sets himself, and fires up a three from the far-right-hand corner of the court. It arches magnificently … and misses the basket entirely, the only one of the 300-odd shots he threw up during the photo session to meet such a fate.
The ball rolls toward the opposite sideline, intersecting Bird’s path on her walk to the locker room. Her photo-session blazer already doffed and slung over her shoulder, she grabs the ball off the floor and wordlessly slings it back to him. A slight half grin, half smirk creases her face as she, the veteran, again lends the rookie a hand. Durant nods appreciatively and then buries the follow-up.