Blog Entry

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Posted on: April 23, 2010 10:03 am
When I spent a few minutes after shoot-around last month with NBA coach of the year Scott Brooks – hours before his upstart Thunder would blow out the Lakers in Oklahoma City – Brooks showered appropriate helpings of praise on his franchise player, Kevin Durant. One statement, however, had me walking off the Thunder’s practice court scratching my head. 

“He wants the challenge of guarding the best players on the teams that we play,” Brooks was saying that day. “I haven’t given him a lot of opportunities there. But he’s always tapping me on my shoulder: ‘I want this guy, I want that guy.’ He’s as good of a defender we have.” 

As good a defender as we have? The same player whose defense was a well-publicized liability for an Oklahoma City team that won 23 games the year before? 

Easy for Brooks to say, was my reaction. Another matter entirely to put those words into action. 

On Thursday night, with his team facing a 3-0 deficit at home against the defending champs, Brooks put his confidence where his mouth was. He didn’t just give Durant an opportunity; he gave him the opportunity. He put Durant on the ultimate closer, the most feared player in the league with the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter or overtime. And Durant responded, using his length and vastly improved confidence on the defensive end to hold Bryant to 2-for-10 shooting in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City’s 101-96 victory. 

“He wanted to guard Kobe. I wanted him to guard Kobe,” Brooks said at the interview podium afterward. “It was a group effort on that decision.” 

Typically, defending Bryant in the fourth quarter of a playoff game is a group effort. Brooks, showing the instincts that garnered him coach-of-the-year honors earlier in the day, knew it was Durant’s time. • It was a bold move, one that paid off in a game the Thunder badly needed if they hoped to make this first-round series more than a mere stepping stone in the Lakers’ bid to repeat as champions. 

Did Brooks find a secret weapon, one that will give his team a chance to hold serve at home and put the pressure squarely on the Lakers when the series returns to L.A. for Game 5 on Tuesday? Well, it’s no secret anymore. Bryant, already chafed by the second-fiddle status he’s been assigned by the pundits who inexplicably view the 21-year-old Durant as his equal, will simply view this as another challenge to his alpha male status. 

Bryant’s predictable response to falling short in the fourth against Durant notwithstanding, Brooks deserves all the credit he’s received for molding his superstar into more than a one-dimensional scorer. 

“He has all the physical tools, but he had to get stronger and he did get stronger over the summer,” Brooks said. “But mentally, he just had to make sure that he was ready to take that challenge every night. It’s hard to be a two-way player. We demand a lot out of him and we need a lot out of him on the offensive end, and he’s becoming a better playmaker there. But we need him to be the defender that he has become, and it still has to get better. 

“When you’re that gifted as a player, there’s not a lot of focus on the defensive end as a young player,” Brooks said. “But he’s committed. You can’t have a player on your team who’s not committed on the defensive end if your philosophy is about defense.” 

When Durant’s shots weren’t falling Thursday night, he did what great players do – he found ways to exert his influence in other areas. He had 19 rebounds to go with his 29 points, then took the biggest challenge any defender can accepts in the playoffs. 

“A lot of guys underestimate my strength,” Durant said. “If you watch the games, I get to the free-throw line, I play in the post, I get guys on my hip and back them down. So it’s not like I’m getting pushed around all the time. I go down there and try to get rebounds, so I try to mix it up down low. A lot of people don’t notice that; I guess because from the outside looking in, I’m a skinny guy. I just try my hardest to go down there and play with the big guys.” 

He played with the biggest of them all Thursday night and came out on top. It was only one step for the Next Great Player. How big? We'll find out.

Since: Jan 5, 2008
Posted on: April 24, 2010 6:09 am

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Or else what?  You going to take your ball and go home?

Whine whine whine... oh, yes, you're a Duke fan.  Nuf said.

Since: Oct 18, 2008
Posted on: April 24, 2010 1:42 am

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Thunder=future!!!!!!!!!!!!   Lackers=past!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: April 24, 2010 1:18 am

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

[quote]34 fouls shots to 12 is just nuts.[/quote]

Foul disparity is irrelevant to whether a game was well-officiated or not.

Mention specific calls that were objectively bad, or you don't have a case.

Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: April 24, 2010 12:35 am

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Who is Kevin Durant? What has he done? What has he won? He is a nobody. He has won nothing. He is yet another overpaid, overhyped young player playing on a very bad team. The Thunder are not an upstart team. They used to be called the Seattle Supersonics, but Berger must have forgotten that due to smoking too many doobies. 

Since: Apr 27, 2008
Posted on: April 23, 2010 7:01 pm

Not the Refs

The refs should never ever be the blamed source for a loss, or given the credit for the win. These players all know the refs and how they call the games. Their failure to make the necessary adjustments is their bad.

The Thunder should have gone to the line last night. If a team is taking jumper after jumper (and I did watch the entire game), they are likely to suffer from a wide disparity of FTs.

The Lakers and Phil now need to adjust. This is the matchup I feared the most for LA in the 1st Round. The Lightnings are young, athletic, and have nothing to lose because there are few expectations. Now that it looks as if Kevin Durant is untracked, LA will need to work on shutting down the support players.

There is absolutely no reason LA should not beat this team. But should they continue to take the outside shot, and not go to the rim, they will continue to struggle.

To the poster who said LA doesn'e have the type of players who can get to the rim... Well, that's just dead wrong. KB can do it... If he wants. Shannon Brown, LO are both very capable. And they have two of the better big men in the league. So they can, and have taken it to the rim consistently. And that is when they are at the top of their game. They need to get back to that game... Inside first, then outside, and let the chips fall where they may. Force the stripes to make some of those inside calls. Then see what happens.

Sweet 16 in 2010.


Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: April 23, 2010 6:47 pm

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

The Lakers lost.  Deal with it.

Since: Feb 4, 2008
Posted on: April 23, 2010 6:24 pm

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

;     &nbs
p; Though your post didn't score well, I'm a Laker fan and I got to admit that you are spot on. Magic Johnson should be in the locker room tomorrow ripping some balls out their pussy behavior on the court last night. If your not going to use your balls, you might as well not have them. Taking 31 three pointers is what coward do when they dont want to go to work in the paint to grind out victories. It's sad that Oklahoma's undersized KIDS sped them out of the paint last night. Man up Lakers. Shooting from three point range for three of the four quarters directly led to the Lakers getting no calls last night.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: April 23, 2010 6:04 pm

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Game 1 free throws Lakers 15 -22   OKC 18 -24
Game 1 free throws Lakers 18 -24   OKC 22 -28
Game 1 free throws OKC 27 -34     &n
bsp; Lakers 10 -12

I love how opinions are posted, but then they give a slanted argument... I agree... there is no argument... OKC shot more FTs then they did in games 1 and 2.... but look at the Lakers compared to the Thunder in 3 point attempts... 31-19 I'm banking the Lakers did not out shoot the Thunder by 12 in games 1 or 2... games 1 and 2 they shot 22 and were a + 9 combined... they weren't mainly a jump shooting team... but in a series they have had more jump shots (shot less FTs) and in game 3 they shoot the most jump shots they have and most 3 pointers... and the least amount of FTS... I think there is something to it don't you CUBSWIN?

Since: Mar 17, 2010
Posted on: April 23, 2010 5:15 pm

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Amen, Astropoke. Where exactly do the Lakers fans think the extra fouls should have been called?

Come up with any excuses you want—watching Durant take on Kobe and block his shots was AWESOME. That's what the blog was about after all, KD taking on another huge challenge and coming out on top. Also give it up for the fans in the Ford Center...109 decibels. Loud City for real.

Since: Apr 23, 2010
Posted on: April 23, 2010 5:12 pm

Durant steps up to Kobe challenge

Go watch hockey Cubswin32. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu


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