Jun 7, 2012, 2:48 AM EDT
It was always going to be like this.
Build your skill set in the comfort of a rebuilding team with low expectations. Take the next step as an exciting bad team in a new environment with a surprisingly rabid crowd. Make the jump to the playoffs and put a shock on the champs, showing that you’re coming. Learn what disappointment is in a Conference finals loss to a stellar team that would go on to win the NBA championship. Come back stronger. Smarter. Better. Win your division. Beat the team who beat you last season. Beat the team who beat you the year before. Beat the standard bearer in the West.
Advance to the NBA finals with a rousing 107-99 comeback victory.
Take your place.
This is Kevin Durant, and he was always destined for this.
From the moment he stepped onto the scene, from D.C. to Austin, Texas to Oklahoma City, this was coming. He even came with the big debate about him or another player who wound up star-crossed. This is how legends are built in the NBA, and now it’s Durant’s time for ascension.
There will be no questions about Kevin Durant going without a field goal in the fourth quarter of Game 6. Because Wednesday night was not about one game. It was about five years of building, five years of development, five years of smart drafting and player development by Thunder general manager Sam Presti, five years of a small city buying in, five years of Durant game-winners, big shots, and prolific performances.
There will be comparisons to Michael Jordan in 1991, to the greats in this game over time. There will be questions of whether he’s ready to win the NBA finals, or whether this team can really get it done.
But do not be confused. What has happened in the middle of the okra fields in Oklahoma is not some smoke-and-mirrors job. It’s not about a falsehood built on a dream. This is reality. It’s been coming for years.
Durant’s game is a force of its own now. It’s not just the swift shooting, the range, the quick release. He has added so many weapons. He’s able to make the smart play. He’s able to slip the screen. He finishes with authority, he presses when he senses vulnerability and he hesitates when the defense adjusts. And he defends. Tenaciously, using those long arms and quick feet. He’s no longer the skinny-waist kid throwing up threes. He’s the skinny-waist man playing a complete game. This is the nexus of Kevin Durant and it’s a sight to behold.
When the Thunder faced a double-digit deficit at halftime on Wednesday and it appeared the Spurs would push the series back to San Antonio and a miserable Game 7, Durant set the tone. Immediately in the third, he sparked the team. He finished with 14 points in the quarter, missing two shots and a field goal on 11 total attempts from the field and stripe.
Durant can do all those other things now, that’s why he’s a different player. But he’s also the same. He’s a scorer. That’s his core. And these playoffs have been about huge shots from Durant, his range burying the opponent, his length rattling them. Durant is the best offensive weapon in the league, and that’s why the Thunder are moving on.
Who’s to say the Thunder won’t get beaten in the finals, another step that Durant and company have to live through in his career? What if the Thunder’s good fortune runs out? No one remembers teams that make the finals and lose. Durant could fall by the wayside, could become just another team that reached the gates but couldn’t get through — another almost st0ry.
But somehow, this feels different, this year or next, the year after or the year after. This is all part of the plan. This is the story of Kevin Durant.
And it was always going to be this way.
Jul 7, 2015, 12:17 AM EDT
Bonner claims a Spurs strength-and-conditioning coach supports the theory
Jul 6, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT
This rookie knows how to finish at the rim.
Jul 6, 2015, 10:04 PM EDT
Cleveland fills its biggest need with its second-best roster-building mechanism
Jul 6, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
Peter Feigin makes another threat
Jul 6, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
Guard will make $2.5 million
Jul 6, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT
In Utah, he counts as a veteran
Jul 6, 2015, 6:44 PM EDT
This is a solid signing, but the Mavs need more help at the guard spot.
Jul 6, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT
This trade could work for both teams if the Clippers can flip Haywood’s contract again for a big man.
Jul 6, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
West left $10.6 million on the table to go to a contender.
Jul 6, 2015, 4:36 PM EDT
This signing was never in doubt.
Jul 6, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT
Signing Terry would go over well with the fan base in Dallas
Jul 6, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Skilled forward was No. 35 pick in 2010 NBA draft
Jul 6, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Can the Spurs keep Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, too? Ginobili must still negotiate a contract
Jul 6, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Lakers are surprisingly high at 50/1
Jul 6, 2015, 1:36 PM EDT
Nobody wants Anderson Varejao and his contract
Jul 6, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
As a result, Clippers suffer
Jul 6, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT
Cavaliers forward, a basketball and nothing else
Jul 6, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Michael Malone lands a good lieutenant
Jul 6, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
Former NBA point guard also loves Cory Joseph signing with Raptors
Jul 6, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT
- Report: Mo Williams signing with Cavaliers for most of their MLE 9
- Report: Cavaliers, Clippers discussing Jamal Crawford for Brendan Haywood trade 25
- Reports: David West agrees to veteran minimum deal to play for Spurs 68
- Report: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies reach deal on five-year, $110 million contract 8
- Manu Ginobili tweets he’ll play next season 5
- Who is left: 15 best free agents still on the board 14
- Report: Detroit Pistons sign restricted free agent Reggie Jackson for five-years, $80 million 38
- Report: Lakers near deal to sign Brandon Bass, may trade Nick Young 36