Monday, February 8, 2010

We are all Durant-nesses



I think I should let the record show that I have an extreme bias towards players I have watched in person. Can't help it. There's some sort of emotional attachment that happens when you're actually in a stadium/arena/field/ballpark that gives you a completely different outlook on players.

Its easy to tell who I have a "Seen-in-person" bias for. Dirk, A-Rod, Josh Hamilton, Josh Howard, Steve Nash, Nick Van Exel, Pudge and LeBron.

Each of those athletes I have seen in person and can recount a specific moment that made me think "Wow, I love everything about this guy." (ex. LeBron: Seeing him during his rookie season, stealing the ball from Michael Finely before rising on the other end with his now trademark one-handed tom-a-hawk. It was like the first time I heard The Beatles.)

So there's one name I left out on that list. His name is Kevin Durant. And he is the future of the NBA.



Yeah, I have my bias. I watched him in Norman during the Texas/OU game during his one college season. His stat line? How about 32 and 10. How about 3 blocks and two steals. How about 9-of-10 from the line. 5-of-6 from 3. 9-of-14 overall. He absolutely dominated the game and left the OU fans really ho-hum throughout (even though they always are during basketball games. Which is the same for Texas. And Florida. I'll save that rant later)

What was most amazing to me, watching him live and in person (from decent seats) was how easy it was. It was so fluid. Coming off down-screens. Posting up. Spot up in transition. Face up from the wing. It was like he was playing against high schoolers. What's even more surprising was how, well, unspectacular it was. Watching him, it didn't feel like the John Wall freak show we have now-a-days. There was a buzz in the arena, no question, but his on court savvy just oozed professionalism. It was like he was saying "Hey, I've been here before. Even though I haven't. That might not make sense to you mere mortals, but don't worry. I know I'll be there and this is how it feels."

I left Oklahoma that night thinking "This guy isn't better than LeBron. He's just too different. He can score. And he's so good at it"

(Durant vs LeBron arguments are a joke just to get it out there. They are both completely different players with different abilities. It's like comparing Dirk to Tim Duncan. They are both great, one not better than the other in terms of basketball ability, but since they do it differently from each other we have to assume one is better. They're not. They're both great.)

When Durant was drafted I couldn't be more excited to watch him play. Unfortunately my Dad had gotten rid of his Mavericks season tickets, which led to my immediate depression. So sadly, I haven't watched until a recent road trek to OKC this past December. But I still know and now everyone else is starting to figure it out. Besides Bill Simmons.

The progression has been steady. After his rookie season, some even wondered "whats the big deal?" Sure his numbers don't pop out at you. 20.3 a game, 43% shooting, 28% 3PT shooting and only grabbing about 4 rebounds a game. Big deal. We saw LeBron and Carmello do that. And we've seen other rookies do even better.

But consider he didn't have a point guard (Westbrook came next year) had a team full of expiring vets and rookie scraps. Also he switched positions about 57 times. He went from shooting guard to small forward to power forward to back to guard. It was a rough transition.

The next two years tell the story. He averaged 25 a game last year raising his shooting percentages and rebounding numbers and free throw attempts. And now he's on the cusp of being the youngest player ever to average 30 a game. Eat your heart out MJ/LeBron.

Consider how filthy good Durant has been since December: He's gotten to the line over 10 times a game while shooting over 50 percent. In January he shot 53 percent...from three. Oh and also in January he got to the line 11.1 times a game. So he's doing it from everywhere. There's no place on the court Durant doesn't feel comfortable. The kid also hasn't had a game under 25 points since December 19th. To take it back farther, he's only had 5 games under 25 points since the beginning of November.

Oh and he's been scoring at a 30 ppg. clip since December, if you couldn't connect the dots.

Oh and one more thing. Now he's learning how to win. Scary. He's taken a 23 win team from last year to 30 and right in the playoff chase. He's raised the level of play from Jeff Green and Russel Westbrook. Follow Durant on twitter. He's constantly updating the world about hangin' with Green or going to a movie with Westbrook. These guys love each other. Much props to coach Scott Brooks, but again, Durant is the cornerstone.

And not once have I really described his game in detail. In essence, its a thing of beauty. Like I said earlier, he can score from any place on the court and remember, it looks easy. Easier than anyone else in the league. The jump shot has Ray Allen's quick release but with Dirk's soft touch. And he's figuring things out. When he played the Mavericks back in December they used Shawn Marion to defend him. Marion used his equal length and athleticism to force Durant into long contested 2's. Against Houston 3 days later, Houston followed suite with Trevor Ariza and their host of 6'-9'' guys (I think they have 15 of them). Durant only shot 4 free throws total in those two games. What did he do after that on his next game? He played the Lakers in LA and schooled Artest and company to the smooth tune of 30 on 57.9% shooting. The difference? One 3PT shot and 8 free throws. That LA game was like the part in Jurassic Park when the Raptors attacked the kids in the kitchen or the scene where they killed that Aussie hunter. "Oh shit they can open doors" really means "Oh shit, he can get to the line at will."

Durant will only continue to grow. He hasn't hit the age 25/26 prime yet. He's got two more seasons before that. He's got the Nike shoe deal and now the All-Star gig this weekend. Prepare people. The Durantula is on the loose.

And we are all so fortuntate to watch.

4 comments:

  1. Thunder will own the league in about 2 years, seriously.

    Good stuff.

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  2. Great post. I love watching Durant play - you're right he is just so smooth out there.

    But I am going to have to disagree with this statement of yours: "Since they do it differently from each other we have to assume one is better. They're not. They're both great."

    Of course one is better than the other (though I agree, they are both great). They do have very different games, but that doesn't mean that their games can't be compared. It is because of this dissimilarity that we can analyze their games and come to a conclusion.

    Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell played radically different games, but people still compare them, even to this day. It's part of the fun of being a fan. The Kobe-LeBron argument has been raging on for a couple years, spawning a rather silly ad campaign and garnering enormous interest in the league. Per the Duncan/Nowitzki comparison, I don't think there is an NBA fan who would say that overall, Nowitzki is a better player - Duncan brings far too much to the table and has had a ridiculous amount of success.

    It's difficult to definitively say one player is better than other. One has to watch a lot of games, look at stats, advanced stats, circumstances, teammates, circumstantial evidence, etc. It's easy just to say that they play different styles and leave it at that.

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  3. brizz: I feel you. I've mainly grown tired of some fans who feel it's their destiny to prove one is better than the other. I agree that it is fun to look at the numbers and compare and debate. I guess I'm not a fan of when it goes out of bounds or out of control like some fan boys. I just didn't feel like starting a huge debate when I mainly, just wanted to say how awesome Durant is.

    And I guess this goes for both of you, thanks for the comments. Trying to get this blog some more pub. So keep checkin it out, tell your friends! Haha.

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