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NBA Notebook: Durand loves competing against James

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

HOUSTON — Kevin Durant wanted to set the record straight once and for all about his relationship with LeBron James.

“I hate him,” he said before breaking into laughter.

Then he got serious.

“We're actually really good friends,” he said. “I think people want us to hate each other so bad just because we're battling against each other.”

James said his relationship with Durant doesn't affect the competition at all.

“You don't have to hate somebody to compete against somebody,” James said.

Too old to dunk?

James has never competed in the slam-dunk contest on All-Star Weekend. Asked if he ever will, James said he thinks his window of opportunity may have passed.

He's only 28, but playing his 10th NBA season.

“I'm getting older,” he said. “It ain't looking good.”

Dwight Howard, who won a dunk contest, had a theory for why some players won't give it a try.

“We do so much during All-Star weekend, by the time we get to the dunk contest we have no legs,” he said. “When you do the dunk contest, you want to have your legs. So I think some guys don't want to get embarrassed in the dunk contest, so they just choose not to do it.”

Ex-Sonic Payton recalls matchups with Jordan

Back in the day, Gary Payton relished the opportunity to guard Michael Jordan.

“We always had great battles,” Payton said. “That's what brought it out of me.”

Payton's Seattle team lost to Jordan's Chicago squad in the 1996 NBA Finals. The Bulls built a 3-0 lead in the series, but the Sonics won the next two games, as coach George Karl put Payton on Jordan in Game 3.

While Jordan won the crown, Payton said when it came to trash talking, Jordan was no match for him.

“Mike didn't really talk any trash,” Payton said. “The only guy who can probably get close to me is probably Larry Bird. And Reggie Miller. They're the only ones who can come close to me, and I think I'm No. 1.”

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