by Marcel Mutoni @ marcel_mutoni

They’re NBA championship contenders, sure. But outside of OKC’s locker room and front-office, does anyone truly believe the Thunder can win it all this season?

It doesn’t really matter; Kevin Durant believes.

KD has heard it all — James Harden’s trade will cost them dearly, Russell Westbrook is a little too erratic, Scott Brooks’ rotations are head-scratching at times — but he pushes forward in the title quest, undeterred.

Per SI and the Star-Ledger:

“I’m happy with where we are right now,” Durant said. “We’re starting to hit our stride. We’re playing great defense, moving the ball, taking care of the ball. Of course, we want to be better. But I like where we are.” [...] “When you lose in the Finals, you just want to start the season off in the playoffs,” Durant said. “But we’re patient. We’re building habits here every single day. I like the direction. Guys are buying into what we’re doing. It’s an exciting time of year.”

It’s a standard riff for (Charles Barkley): He cited Miami’s invincibility, how Oklahoma City is just another jumper-oriented team, and all the usual prophecies that hath been foretold to his regal roundness. [...] “He said that last year,” Durant said. “He said we wouldn’t make it to the Finals — that we were a bunch of jump shooters. But we’re shooting 48 percent as a team. We don’t shoot all 3s and jumpers. We get in the paint. We can do it all. So of course he’s gonna say that. You respect sometimes what he says, he’s a funny guy. But we don’t listen to him.” [...] “You only know how good we can be (during) this playoffs,” Durant said, before dropping 34 on the Knicks. “I wouldn’t say we’re hurting without James (Harden). Of course, he’s having a great season. But any team would love to have him.”

Ah, yes. The James Harden issue, which hangs over everything the OKC Thunder do — and don’t do — this season. According to Kevin Durant, there’s no need to fret. He’ll figure out a way to overcome that obstacle.

Soon enough, KD and the Thunder will have the Playoff stage to silence all doubters.