Oklahoma City Thunder, Because of Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant’s numbers are exactly what would be expected of a superstar.
It’s a good thing for the Oklahoma City Thunder that Kevin Durant isn’t all superstar though. That’s not a knock on Kevin Durant. In fact, it’s the biggest reason why the Thunder have been able to mature into one of the two best teams in the league. Maybe the best.
Sure, KD has become not only the best pure scorer in the NBA but also a much more complete player. Yeah, he has established himself as a closer that we can compare to Michael Jordan without sounding completely ridiculous. It’s true, he has led OKC to the NBA Finals.
But the Thunder are thriving now because of Kevin Durant’s personality. His easy-going nature has allowed Oklahoma City to become the dominating force that they are today. While superstars are generally thought of to be this type A, dictatorship-like personality, Kevin Durant is governing his team democratically.
It feels like eons ago when Russell Westbrook was being condemned for his apparent lack of a conscious and Kevin Durant was getting criticized for his reluctance to take the bull by the horns. Unlike a dirty prison rat, Kevin Durant continued to defend his partner in crime no matter how out of hand Westbrook got. Durant even fired back at Skip Bayless saying “we’re worse when I take more shots” a couple of months ago.
Without Kevin Durant’s willingness to let his shoot first point guard shoot first far too often, the Thunder wouldn’t be up 1-0 in the NBA Finals as we speak. Durant let Westbrook play through his mistakes. His many, many mistakes.
Oh, how the times have changed.
Westbrook is not the same player these days. He still takes lots of shots. Last night, Westbrook had 24 field goal attempts to Durant’s 20. But the change is most noticeable in key situations. During the playoffs, Westbrook has finally learned when to defer to the best player on his team. He knows when he should sit back and watch the magic instead of trying to make it.
It took a bit longer than it probably should have but everyone grows up at a different rate. For some odd reason, Russell Westbrook deluded himself into thinking, and/or was out to prove, that he was the superstar in Oklahoma City.
If Kevin Durant handled this situation in the authoritarian manner that many thought he should, it might very well have stunted Westbrook’s development. Knowing Westbrook, he may have responded to fire with fire, rebelling to the oppressiveness like a teenager does to his parents telling him to hit the books. However, Kevin Durant let Russell Westbrook mature at his own pace. He didn’t force the issue and Westbrook responded accordingly.
The evidence was there again on Tuesday night as Kevin Durant poured in 17 of his game-high 36 points in the final period. Westbrook may have finished the game with more shots but he picked his spots, the right ones, in the 4th quarter.
A championship this season isn’t necessary to validate what Kevin Durant did for his team. He didn’t knee-jerk his way to a controversy and the Thunder are on their way to many more exhilarating championship runs. He may have done very little over the past year to squash the Skip Bayless led criticism but very little was precisely what Oklahoma City, and more importantly, Westbrook required.
Russell Westbrook is changed man now. He didn’t need an intervention. He just needed time.
Not many superstars would have been able to give Westbrook the time he needed. But Kevin Durant isn’t like most superstars.
And because of it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting pretty, a game up on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Chris is a writer on Comedic Prose, and he also is the editor of Painting the Black.