|Durant wants the challenge from Dwight Howard this season. (Getty Images)|
Kevin Durant has predictably been on a media tear with "Thunderstruck" coming out. And he's of course getting lots of questions about the new look Lakers and how the Thunder stack up after sending L.A. packing last year.
But Durant isn't getting worked up over what he says is being described as a great team "on paper." From Yahoo Sports:
"People outside, fans, media, of course they are going to say [the Lakers are the favorites] because on paper they have the best lineup in the league. But you still got to play the games. We respect everybody. We are going to go through the league respecting everybody as well.
"We already view ourselves as an elite team, but we have to prove it again. Last year is over with."
"It was a great move for [the Lakers]," Durant said. "[Howard] is the most dominant center in the league. It's going to make it tough on other teams. But I like that challenge. We all like that challenge in OKC. It should be fun.
"That's what the Lakers do. They make big moves. That's part of their DNA."
Durant has never run up against a roadblock he just couldn't get over yet. They couldn't get past the Lakers in 2010, and ran them out of the second round in five games last year. They couldn't get past Dallas in 2011, and brushed them aside like they were nothing in 2012. They fell to the Heat, but haven't had to face them in the Finals again, yet. The Lakers represent a whole new problem, a team that may have just leapfrogged them, and have the ability to contend for three to four years, which would force the Thunder to take drastic measures to get over the hump.
It's great to talk about the challenge now, but any team that has run up against someone they couldn't get over said that the first time.
Durant's right that there are a multitude of ways for the Lakers to not be as good as they are "on paper." Injuries, chemistry, Mike Brown's approach, Kobe's mentality, all of these things play a part. But the paper does matter, because the paper is determined by results. And the results say that the league is in trouble when the Lakers take the court.
Of course, if we're talking about not being able to get past a team, it could very well be the Lakers singing that tune at year's end.
Which is why this will be so much fun to watch.