Remember when the dynamic between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was worrisome and oft-discussed? They even were involved in an “altercation!” It even led to a Bleacher Report article that wondered if the “altercation” would force a blockbuster trade! Wouldn’t that have been something?!
An NBA Finals appearance (despite a loss to the overpowering Heat) mostly quieted that talk, but the Oklahoma City Thunder, despite trailing the San Antonio Spurs by just one game for the Western Conference lead, have reignited the controversy! Controversy is fun, so let’s check out if this is legit, via the well respected Daily Thunder.
“When you watch them play, the joy is not there. That’s pretty clear to me.”
That was said by also-well-respected David Thorpe of TrueHoopTV
That was the most inflammatory statement about the Thunder, but I’m not sure I buy it. This is the NBA, where everybody suggests that players don’t care entirely about regular season results. A regular season lull in energy doesn’t constitute controversy, no matter how much we want it to.
The talk of Durant’s obsessiveness with his own stats was interesting, though.
KD tracks his numbers in his head obsessively throughout games, down to turnovers, assists, what he’s shooting from the floor, rebounds and of course, points. I remember a game last season where Durant threw a half-oop, half-shot out of bounds. He came over to the scorekeeper and asked him if he had scored it a turnover or a shot attempt. The scorekeeper said turnover, to which Durant said, “Good, I’d rather have a turnover than a miss.”
We’ve known this for a while (not long ago, I sarcastically wrote that Durant “only cares about his stats”), but that does seem a bit freakish.
Or take Durant’s answer to the halfcourt heave thing. Some could perceive that as him being selfish and valuing individual stats over team. But in reality, he’s just doing what everyone else with a brain would do.
Now is that some cause for grand concern that KD values himself over team? I think if you’re really asking that, then you don’t know jack about Durant. Thing is, he cares about himself and his individual performance because he has a brain. Every player does. They all study box scores at halftime and after games. They want to know. Some let it influence their play on the floor more than others, but with Durant, while he’s tracking and thinking about stats, he’s still playing with only the mission of winning. Doesn’t take a genius to know though that the better Durant plays, the better chance of that the Thunder have.
That sums it up. Durant is stat-obsessed, but that doesn’t mean he’s selfish. He’s competitive, and he wants to win, while putting up monster stats.
Thorpe and the Daily Thunder reacted rationally, suggesting that these “problems” will be healed when the postseason arrives. These players are competitive, and they want to win a championship. The Thunder are still either the second or third-best team in the NBA, and that hasn’t changed. We don’t know if they can beat the Heat, and the Spurs are incredibly good. But even if the Thunder lose to either of them, it likely won’t be because of these “problems.” It will be because they were outplayed, because these teams are very, very good.
As much as I like a good controversy, there’s not much here.
Photo via ESPN