Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spotlight: Kevin Durant

"Coming into the league, all I really wanted to do was become a player that everybody's going to remember once I'm done," Durant said. "I wish I could have had a better start to my rookie season. But after that I've learned a lot, I've grown a lot and I think every year I've been in this league I've grown as a player and hopefully I'll continue to do the same. My goal, of course, by the time I'm done playing is to be a Hall of Famer. So hopefully I'll do that. We'll see what happens."

Since Kobe is so good at specifics, we should let him describe what the ultimate manifestation of Durant could be.

"A 6-11 me," Bryant said. "That dog in him? He's got it in him."

In many ways, Durant already has moved past Bryant. This season, he beat Kobe out by a tenth of a point to claim his third straight scoring title, one more than Bryant has in his career. He finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting, two spots ahead of Kobe. And he knocked Kobe out of the playoffs.

"Not only did he beat Kobe, whom Durant called "probably the greatest player of my time," he also vanquished reigning champion Dirk Nowitzki and bested four-time champ and two-time MVP Tim Duncan.

"I won't say I'm as good as Tim Duncan and Russ is as good as Tony Parker," Durant said that night, "but just that chemistry they had, and just their personalities fit us, I think pretty well."

Later, Durant was asked by reporters about what aspects of the Duncan-Parker duo he hoped to emulate and he said, "Longevity, wins, championships."

The on-the-court version of Durant has been astounding since he was a kid. Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver's hometown is near where Durant grew up in Maryland, and he first saw Durant play when Durant was about 10 years old.

"He had focus in his eyes," Weaver said. "You could tell he wanted to be good and he loved the game. Even as a young kid. He just had a focus on the court. He wasn't easily distracted. You could tell the guy enjoyed being on the floor.

"A lot of kids toyed with different things. He found his first love early. That's the way I would describe it. The beauty about him is, he understands process. Getting better every day."

"Man, I don't know where this guy will end up as a player," Weaver said. "I do believe he's a generational player. It's hard to find that blend of commitment, work ethic and talent. It's rare to find that. The guy is 23. Let's sit down and talk again when he's 27. Who knows where this guy will be? I don't like in sports how we all want to pigeonhole guys. The great ones, you can't do that."

Through five seasons, Durant has scored 9,978 points in 380 games. Durant entered the league at age 19 after spending just his freshman year at Texas. If Durant plays at least 80 games a year and averages 26 points per game for the next 14 seasons -- through age 37 -- he can hit 39,000 points, topping Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record of 38,387 career points.

Real Talk! I think coaching let the Thunder down in the Finals: "Foul trouble in Games 2 and 3 prompted Thunder coach Scott Brooks to shift Durant away from James coverage for the bulk of Game 4." And Harden -- c'mon maaaan. Future looks bright as fuck for KD though, and even negative sportswriters can't deny his greatness.

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