Durant is offensive force, but you can't defend his D

BY foxsports • January 17, 2010

How hot has Kevin Durant been lately? In the twelve games previous to OKC's confrontation with Miami, he'd averaged nearly 33 points per game, shot almost 60% overall, and knocked down half of his long-ball attempts.

In other words, hot enough so that nobody would be surprised if the ball burst into flames when he touched it.

Here are the particulars of his latest output — a sizzling 14-for-18, 36-point performance at home versus the Heat.

Let us count the many ways in which Durant scored:

    In all, an incredible variety of shots and point-making opportunities. Notice the limited number of isolations, the shots that resulted when KD moved without the ball, and the relatively minimal dribbling. These variations made it extremely difficult for the Heat to double team him.

    In addition to his high-volume scoring and low-volume shooting, Durant also tallied three assists -- two on drive-and-kicks, and one on a drive-and-drop. Plus, three of his passes created open shots that his teammates missed.

    Quite an offensive explosion by the Thunders' franchise player.

    However, there are no perfect players and there are no perfect games. So here are the negatives in KD's outing against Miami.

    After being "defended" by either Quentin Richardson or Dorell Wright, Durant was hounded by Dwyane Wade for several minutes in the fourth quarter. OKC already had the game firmly in hand, but Erik Spoelstra most likely was curious about how this particular matchup would work out.

      Could guarding Durant with a smaller, quicker, stronger player be the way to control him? Perhaps. But not every team is blessed with the presence of a Wade-like player.

      As far as Durant's offense was concerned, there were only a few more items on the negative side of the ledger:

      He forced several passes -- hence his three turnovers. These miscues, though, were more than balanced by the fact that he didn't force any shots.

      Whenever he wasn't directly involved in a play, Durant mostly floated around the perimeter calling for the ball with a raised and waving right hand. On one possession, he ran into Russell Westbrook's space and a pass meant for somebody else bounced hard off of Durant's face. But this greediness for the ball is totally excusable in a player who is his team's go-to scorer.

      It was at the other end of the game where Durant's flaws were more evident:


        Here and now, Durant is obviously a versatile and dynamic scorer. Although physical opponents can give him trouble, the more he moves without the ball the more space he can create.

        While Durant is basically unselfish, his passing is sloppy and unrefined.

        And his defense is putrid.

        It should be remembered, however, that Durant is still only 21 and in his third NBA season. Eventually, he'll get stronger, wiser, and therefore better in every aspect of the game.

        When/if that day ever comes, Kevin Durant will set the entire league on fire.

        STRAIGHT SHOOTING

        Kudos to Gregg Popovich for sitting Tim Duncan throughout the Spurs' recent win in Oklahoma City. Resting one or even several of his star players is a practice that Pop has periodically repeated in recent years -- and it’s a great idea for several reasons:

        The NBA season is a long and arduous marathon that, to some degree, is harmful to most players’ mental, physical and emotional well-being. Even a one-game vacation provides some valuable extra time in which a player can regain his equilibrium. It’s a valuable gift from Pop to his players, demonstrating that he really cares about them.

        Bench players get a chance to stretch out their normal playing time and prove their value. Another message that Pop sends to the brothers-of-the-pine is that he trusts them.

        In case of any subsequent injuries and/or oppressive foul trouble suffered by the team’s stars, the Spurs’ subs will be able to fill in with confidence.

        The whole process is wonderful for team chemistry.

        It’s also a win-win situation. If the Spurs are victorious with a short-handed squad, the losers can’t avoid being dispirited. Hey, if they beat us without Duncan, then what chance do we have when TD is playing?

        And if the Spurs do lose, the mitigating circumstances will still be beneficial.

        This somewhat daring tactic is just one more reason why Pop is one of the best coaches in NBA history.

        VOX POPULI

        I read that the parents of the Gasol brothers explained to Marc that he would never be as good as Pau because of their physical differences. Yet I thought that Pau’s basketball IQ rather than his athleticism was his best advantage over his brother. Since Marc’s game is more physical, will he eventually surpass Pau if he continues to learn and master the NBA game? Or are their parents correct? – Daniel Vazquez-Paluch

        While I must admit to being surprised by how well and how quickly Marc has developed into a solid NBA center, I doubt that he will ever evolve into a better player than his brother.

        Here’s my reasoning:

        If Marc is stronger, Pau is longer. With his high shoulders and long arms, the 7-foot Pau effectively has the reach of a 7-3 or 7-4 player. This advantage should not be minimized.

        In addition, Pau is the superior passer and has infinitely more moves in the low post. Marc, however, has the softer shot, and has the strength to establish and secure optimum position in the pivot.

        Also, Pau is quicker, faster, and has a more developed off-hand.

        For sure, Marc’s NBA IQ can only increase -- and may even come to equal Pau’s. But big brother is indeed more physically gifted.

        Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, to see the brothers Gasol playing together in the NBA?

        TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY

        Broken noses are an occupational hazard for basketball players at every level of competition. In all, my schnoz was fractured or displaced at least nine times during my active career.

        The first occurrence constituted a bloody badge of honor in that Eddie Roman did the deed. Roman was the center on the historic CCNY team that won both the NIT and the NCAA championship in 1950. Unfortunately Roman, along with several of his teammates, was implicated in various point-shaving schemes in league with gamblers, so he was barred from the NBA. Still, he had the strength, intelligence and talent to have been an outstanding pro.

        It was during an instructional game of one-on-one when I, a mere freshman, tried to shoulder Roman out of the way during a battle for a rebound, when he blasted the middle of my face with the elbow of experience.

        Such things are ordinary in the wonderful world of hoops. But the circumstances that produced my next nasal distress were quite unusual.

        I was enrolled in a one-credit swimming course at Hunter College, and part of the final exam called for me to execute an acceptable dive from the low board into the pool. The teacher nixed my initial attempt, ordering me to get more bounce off the board so as to enter the water at a more perpendicular angle.

        OK.

        Trouble was that the depth at the board-end of the pool was only seven feet and I was 6-foot-9. Worse still, with my arms outstretched I was about nine feet long.

        So I jumped, bounced as high as I could, and dove.

        Too bad my arms were too far apart and were separated even farther by the force of my hitting the water. As a result, I made a crashing nose-first contact with the bottom of the pool.

        Snap! Crackle! Pop!

        I emerged from the bloody depths with my nose positioned in a slight dog-leg left.

        The short-term result was that I received a C in the course. The long-term result was that until another elbow-induced fracture required corrective surgery, I was able to simply twitch my head in a slight forward motion and convince whomever was guarding me that I was about to drive left.

        A built-in head-fake earned the hard way.

        If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email charleyrosen@gmail.com and he may respond in a future column.



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