New Thunder guard P.J. Dozier says choice of No. 35 nothing to do with Kevin Durant

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It was an unusual sight walking into the Oklahoma City Thunder's practice facility Tuesday and seeing No. 35 on the wing, attempting 3-pointers with assistant coach Vin Bhavnani.

No, Kevin Durant was not visiting his old stomping grounds. It was the Thunder's newest signing, undrafted rookie P.J. Dozier, who signed to a two-way contract Tuesday.

No. 35 has become one of the more iconic jersey numbers in the league, in part because of Durant's high profile. Basketball Reference shows 168 players in NBA history have donned it (for perspective, 310 have worn No. 5), but Durant is already the most prolific to wear the number.

And Durant, of course, spent nine seasons wearing it with the Thunder.

Dozier is the first player since Durant's departure to wear No. 35 in Oklahoma City. Despite any apparent awkwardness, Dozier said he simply saw the numbers available, asked for 35 and got it. He said he didn't think about who had previously worn the number when he asked for it.

"Honestly I didn't even think twice about [Durant having it] when I said it because I had it in preseason when I was with Dallas," he said. "I just saw it was open and took advantage of it."

As for the why, Dozier said the number carries meaning.

"My second cousin was Reggie Lewis," he said, speaking of the former Boston Celtics great who died suddenly in 1993 at age 27. "That's all it is. Wasn't anything other than that honestly."

Dozier wore No. 15 at South Carolina. No. 35 wasn't available then, he said. Durant's number obviously isn't retired (yet) by the Thunder. So technically it was available.

But there is precedent in OKC of the team denying a number request. After Dion Waiters was traded to the Thunder in 2015, his preferred No. 3 was already taken, so he requested No. 13. The Thunder told him to pick again; that was James Harden's old number there.

"They didn't want me to wear 13," Waiters said then. "Guess they wanted me to have my own identity."

The Thunder later acknowledged it was an internal miscommunication that led to Waiters being denied the number.

Eventually, Nazr Mohammed got 13 in 2016, when he signed on late in the season and appeared in five games. Now Paul George wears it.

Numbers in the NBA can be sensitive matters for star players. Last season after being traded to the Chicago Bulls, Anthony Morrow picked No. 1 but found backlash among some fans who argued the choice was disrespectful to former MVP Derrick Rose. Morrow understood and quickly changed his number to 11.

"Before the game I didn't see anybody say anything on Twitter or Instagram, and then when I sat down I started going through my Twitter mentions and it was like crazy," Morrow told reporters last year. "Like, 'What makes you think you can wear that?' I was like, 'Ohh, D-Rose.'

"[The media all] told me [before the game], but I had forgotten [when I chose the number]. But I mean I like Derrick. Derrick's a great guy, that's my guy man, and I know what the city means to him. I know what he means to the city. And fans are a part of the sport and they're part of the fan base, so I'm going to respect it."