Aug 27, 2012, 10:18 AM EST
In an interview with the Washington Post, Kevin Durant takes the subtle leap forward from “all humble all the time” in interviews to “No, really, I’m exceptional at basketball.” Specifically, Durant says that he’s done with people talking about how eventually he’ll have the league in his grasp, that it’s here, it’s now. The future and present are one, and no matter what happened in June, it’s Kevin Durant’s world.
“I’ve heard a few times, in three or four years, this league is going to be yours. . . . I don’t like that. Because I think I’m established now. My time is now,” Durant said. “I feel as though I’ve proved myself these last five years that I can be one of the top players in the league. I’ve got a long way to go to being the ultimate best, but I think my time is now. And I’m starting to enter my prime.”
It’s true that Durant can be considered “there.” This is the prime of his career, he’s just now getting there, and he’s got such a long way to go with it at just 23 years of age. But there’s a subject that should probably be gently unearthed here. It’s just the Thunder’s third season in the playoffs. It’s just their second of title contention. They’ve moved closer each year, taking significant steps forward.
But if they don’t get it done this season, there’s a very real possibility the window closes.
That concept sounds preposterous considering they were just a few good quarters away from stealing the Finals. The Thunder are going to have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka together for the next four years at least. They could very well have James Harden as well. They have no albatross contracts. Kendrick Perkins‘ is pretty close, but they have retained their amnesty clause in the event they need to use it there. The four primary members of the core are only going to get better.
But how many times have we seen a young core never get there in their first few seasons, and then have the future robbed? You have to make the climb, and you have to reach the summit. Victory serves as a pacifist for things that can derail a team; unrest, injury, the desperation trade and the like. Sam Presti has been exceptionally patient with this group, but there’s now going to be the lure of that which has ruined so many young cores, the chance at a superstar gamble, a major move, a huge upgrade. The fact that the Thunder are so good guards against that to a degree, but eventually , the pendulum swings and teams find themselves looking “to make a change” for whatever reason.
The Blazers in 2008, the Magic in 2009, the Bulls in 2007, the Wizards in 2007. None of these teams look now like they’re in the same league as the Thunder and in many ways, they aren’t. But their falls were not foreseen. They had either young or stable cores, limitless potential, and players in the elite ranks. They and countless teams before them seemed destined for great things, if not a championship. That’s how quickly these windows close. Yes, you have the Spurs and you have the Mavericks, who kept cores essentially intact for over a decade but those teams stand out precisely because of that longevity, not as standard bearers.
Durant could wake to find himself as the best player on the planet in three years, but surrounded by talent that cannot get it together to compete. This is not built as an “anything is possible” kind of postulate, but as a simple reminder that contending teams that do not win a title seldom are able to keep the core together. Things fall apart, so to speak. Durant can talk to any number of stars about the situation. Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Brandon Roy, it seemed all would inevitably win a title (Garnett later would — when he was traded to another team). The Thunder play in a small market, and while Clay Bennett has been the very model of a modern major owner for OKC (not so much for Seattle), there’s still a lot to learn about how Bennett will react if the luxury bills start piling up.
Durant will be great no matter what, barring injury, knock on wood. He’s going to get better in every phase of the game. But the kind of youthful “golly, we’re just excited to be here” enthusiasm in the Thunder locker room is already shifting to a more focused, determined desperation to win the title, to get over the hump. Most stars don’t win a title before 27. Experience wins, traditionally, in this league. The Thunder are trying to buck that, and they have a great chance. But they have to get past that final hurdle. They needed to make the playoffs, then they needed to advance in the playoffs, then they needed to make the Finals. They’ve done that, but the last step is hardest to climb, especially with how the Heat have built themselves and the Lakers’ standing in the West ready to cause mayhem.
Durant said over the weekend that the Lakers are impressive “on paper.” But think back to how many teams thought they were great the season after they made the Finals only to discover that it was a fleeting moment in the sun, and that the league passed them by. Durant doesn’t have to go down like that, to toil for years. But he’s got to get there. Winning begets winning, stagnation begets change.
The expectations have caught up with Durant. His time is now. It has to be. It better be.
Dec 4, 2013, 10:53 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back to practicing at full speed this week, and while many hoped that would mean a return to real game action as soon as Friday on the road against the Kings in Sacramento, Bryant himself said on Wednesday that wouldn’t be the case. Speaking to many reporters one-on-one at the unveiling of…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:27 PM EST
UPDATE 9:46 p.m.: The NBA later issued an official release detailing the postponement: “The National Basketball Association game scheduled for tonight between the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves has been postponed due to a generator malfunction which produced smoke inside Mexico City Arena. “The date for the rescheduled game, which will be played at…
Dec 4, 2013, 9:01 PM EST
Gerald Henderson of the Bobcats became the latest player to be warned for violating the league’s anti-flopping rule on Wednesday, and there’s little doubt that his dive against the Mavericks on Tuesday was worthy of its distinction. With his back to the defender, Henderson simply takes a leap toward the sideline with the ball in…
Dec 4, 2013, 6:35 PM EST
Is it too late to join the Eastern Conference? Asking for a friend.— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 04, 2013 That is just classic. Sure, it’s been easy for fans and the media to pile on the Eastern Conference, where the 9-9 Wizards are the No. 3 seed and the 8-12 Celtics lead the Atlantic Division.…
Dec 4, 2013, 5:59 PM EST
Larry Sanders has been out since early November when he got involved in a bar fight and tore ligaments in his thumb so badly it required surgery to repair the hand. Sanders has since apologized to fans and the team for the incident. But it’s not over yet. Sanders has been cited twice for his…
Dec 4, 2013, 5:14 PM EST
The Washington Wizards have gone 7-3 in their last 10 and have moved into the No. 3 seed in the East (at 9-9, but still the three seed) all without having the No. 3 pick in the last draft Otto Porter, who was supposed to be the starting three on this team. But they could…
Dec 4, 2013, 3:58 PM EST
When TNT worked with the NBA to set up its Thursday showcase schedule, this Thursday seemed like a ratings spike — the defending Atlantic Division champion Knicks with Carmelo Anthony against the new Kidd on the block in the Brooklyn Nets. Then a showdown between Derrick Rose‘s Bulls and the two-time defending champion Heat. The…
Dec 4, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
It’s the most anticipated game on the NBA calendar, a battle of powerhouse franchises fighting for the heart of America’s biggest city… Or, it could be a big steaming pile of… that stuff you have to scrape off the bottom of your shoe sometimes. It’s the Thursday night showdown between the 3-13 Knicks vs. the…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:28 PM EST
Nate Robinson often gets plenty of run for the Nuggets in the fourth quarter of games. For one thing, he is the human proof of the hot hand theory and when he gets going can change a game (or he can be Mr. Snow Miser, everything he touches turns to snow in his clutch… he’s…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:04 PM EST
DeMarcus Cousins sat out the Kings loss to the Thunder Tuesday night with an ankle injury. When asked if he would be ready to go Friday, he decided to play comedian. Don’t tempt fate, DeMarcus. Derrick Rose may not think it’s funny but Cousins’ comments sounded like a lot of people on twitter who have…
Dec 4, 2013, 1:14 PM EST
Got to hand it to Turkish Airlines — they are willing to pay for two of the most expensive sports sponsors in the world, then they have put together some pretty clever ads for them. The latest has Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi — apparently both having time on their hands as they try to recover…
Dec 4, 2013, 12:48 PM EST
We use the phrase here regularly: Kevin Durant is the second best basketball player walking the planet earth right now. Durant is sick of having that title. He has said it before and he said it again in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes Sports” which will air on Showtime tonight (10 ET).…
Dec 4, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
Omer Asik will be out for at least a week after suffering a right thigh contusion, reports Jason Friedman of Rockets.com. Asik will be re-evaluated at that time to assess whether or not he’s able to return. Asik’s injury could leave Houston pretty shorthanded for Wednesday night’s contest against the Suns. Jeremy Lin is out…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:42 AM EST
The Spurs will face the Timberwolves in Mexico City on Wednesday as part of the NBA’s 2013-14 Global Games schedule, which included eight preseason games played internationally and one more to be played in London on between the Hawks and the Nets on Jan. 16. San Antonio’s players celebrated the occasion by taking on some…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:01 AM EST
Imagine being in a management position at your job, and supervising one of your better employees for a somewhat extended period of time. Then flash forward years later, when for a variety of reasons, you accept a position working for your former employee, who now has your old job. And while your former employee knows…
Dec 4, 2013, 10:22 AM EST
When the Golden State Warriors start raining threes there is no show like them in the NBA. The Warriors were down 27 points in the third quarter night at home to the Raptors. The Raptors were ahead 18 entering the fourth quarter and every Toronto fan still awake and watching the game back home was…
Dec 4, 2013, 10:08 AM EST
We told you yesterday Mike Woodson’s seat is getting hot in New York — The Knicks are 3-13 and have lost nine in a row, owner James Dolan has a Nets obsession, the Knicks play the Nets on Thursday and if the Knicks streak reaches 10… let’s just say Dolan is unpredictable. The fact Woodson…
Dec 4, 2013, 8:43 AM EST
The night before Paul George did the same thing for the Pacers, this time it was Arron Afflalo — scoring 43 points in a losing effort. Afflalo was overshadowed by the two rookies notching triple-doubles (Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo) but this was a career high for the former UCLA star. He had 14 in the…
The Extra Pass: Chemistry clicking in Denver as Nuggets beat Nets to win seventh straight, and Tuesday’s recaps
Dec 4, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
NEW YORK – If it was a fight, they would have stopped it. To say the Nuggets beat the Nets on Tuesday to earn their seventh straight win wouldn’t at all be an accurate description of how Denver came out and destroyed Brooklyn in the third quarter, and then continued the assault against a depleted and…
- Arena evacuated after apparent fire, Spurs-Timberwolves game in Mexico City postponed 7
- Milwaukee police release video, cite Larry Sanders for bar fight 8
- PBT Extra: Focusing on “epic showdown” between Knicks, Nets 5
- Carmelo Anthony: “We are the laughingstock of the league right now” 24
- Joe Johnson says players noticed friction between Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank 26
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (63)
- Report: Dion Waiters accused Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson of playing “buddy ball.” (53)
- Michael Beasley finding a role, groove in Miami (41)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (41)
- With game in balance, Jason Kidd tells player to “hit me,” spills drink, gets psuedo timeout to draw up play (40)