Kevin Durant's movie opens this Friday

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Kevin Durant's movie opens this Friday

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Kevin Durant is going from representing the red, white and blue to walking the red carpet. Adding to a resume that already includes being a three-time NBA scoring champion and Olympic gold medalist, Durant was the star as his movie "Thunderstruck" premiered in Oklahoma City's Bricktown entertainment district Sunday night. It opens in other theaters Friday. Durant strolled down a red carpet in a black T-shirt, grey vest, white jeans and black sneakers to answer questions about his acting skills instead of the deadly shooting ability that propelled the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals last season. "Of course, people are going to look at it a little different because I'm a basketball player and I'm doing something different," Durant said. "A basketball player is what I do. It's not really just solely who I am. I like to do other things. "It's all about conquering your fears. That's one thing I did with this, stepping in front of a camera and people yelling Action!' It's not the norm for me. I did something outside the box, and I'm glad it turned out pretty well." Durant was getting his first chance to see the completed project, which was shot in Louisiana during the NBA lockout last year and then during the season in Oklahoma City in January. It also features Nickelodeon star Taylor Gray, Brandon T. Jackson from "Big Momma's House" and Jim Belushi. Gray plays a Thunder fan whose lack of basketball ability is magically switched with Durant's All-Star skill set. "I'm just blessed. I'm just blessed to be alive, first of all. Blessed to be here, to have this opportunity," Durant said. "Not too many people can say they starred in a movie as a basketball player, with a lot of different things they're juggling, but I'm glad I did it." The folks at Warner Bros. might not have been able to pick a better time to put out a movie starring Durant, exactly one week after he won Olympic gold as Team USA's leading scorer and a little over a month after he played against LeBron James' Miami Heat for the NBA title. The family comedy follows in the footsteps of other movies with NBA superstars as the headliners, including "Space Jam" starring Michael Jordan and "Kazaam" with Shaquille O'Neal. "When a guy goes over and hugs his mom after the game, that's a guy that people are going to like and that's what you need in a movie," director John Whitesell said. "You need a guy, a star, who people are going to want to relate to or are going to care about. "You want people to care that Kevin can't shoot. If LeBron can't shoot, I don't care. I'm happy. But if Kevin can't shoot, I'm sad." Whitesell said Durant might have been caught off guard by the days he had to be on set and in front of the camera for 12 hours, when his previous experience was with much briefer commercial shoots. The first day, he had Durant bounce a ball in a gym and worked toward getting him comfortable in his own shoes -- because he plays himself in the movie. "I wanted to create an atmosphere for him that he felt comfortable and confident in, so that he could grow into it as we went, and I think that went really well," said Whitesell, who remembered his only other experience filming athletes coming on a cameo appearance by Patrick Ewing and Mark Jackson on the short-lived NBC show "Tattingers." Gray said he played varsity basketball as a junior in high school, but then left to start shooting TV shows. He walks away with an unforgettable memory from playing one-on-one against Durant. "It's like, to this day, my biggest accomplishment in basketball. He was really guarding me and had blocked like the last three shots and I was just running around throwing up hook shots and anything I could, and one fell in," said Gray, who hopes the film will help him land roles in future movies. Durant has said he doesn't see himself doing any more feature-length movies because of the demands on his time. Whitesell put it this way: He doesn't think Durant will do another movie at least until he wins a championship. "This is a guy who everybody wants a piece of him right now and he's got a lot on his plate. But I know from when we were there what he cares about. He cares about basketball," Whitesell said. "He wants to win a championship, he wants to do the best he can possibly do at that and he's just blossoming." Already, Durant has accomplished one goal by winning gold in London alongside James, Kobe Bryant and other NBA stars. He said he didn't get much ribbing about being a movie star, although a couple of his Olympic teammates did ask about it. He planned to send a text message to them all after getting to see the movie for the first time. "Hopefully they'll take their kids to see it, and hopefully they enjoy it," Durant said. "Those guys, man, they're unbelievable. They support everything. Those guys are really good teammates. I was blessed that I got that opportunity to be around such great players but such humble guys as well."

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.