Nicolas Batum is a prisoner of the moment.
After watching Kevin Durant tear up the Portland Trail Blazers and continue his torrid run with 46 points in a pull-away-in-the-fourth victory, the Rip City small forward is now convinced that there's a new king in the NBA.
Down has gone LeBron James, and Durant stands in his place.
"The guy is the best player in the world right now. What can you say about him?” Batum espoused to NBA.com's Jeff Caplan after failing to corral Durant and watching as he drilled the dagger right over his outstretched arms. “When you watch him on TV, like, he is the best. When you guard him in the game, sometimes you have two guys on him and he makes the shot anyway."
Batum continued, calling Durant the MVP and singing his praises, just like everyone else in the world.
The MVP statement is correct, but the first one isn't.
Durant is playing better than anyone else in basketball. Over his past five games, he's averaging a flat-out ridiculous 40.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 59 percent from the field and 50 percent beyond the arc.
The hot streak extends all the way back to the game after Christmas, when Durant started playing without Russell Westbrook. However, 14 games isn't enough for him to topple James and take over the crown; that takes a little bit more work.
Playing better than anyone else in basketball doesn't necessarily mean elevating him to the No. 1 spot in any logical set of player rankings, especially when the man you're chasing has one heck of a track record and is putting together a fantastic campaign even while sleepwalking through the season.
Right before Durant's outing against Portland, B/R's Grant Hughes wrote, "KD is the challenger. He's focused on catching the one guy fans and players still largely view as his superior."
It's tough to argue against that, even if Durant is setting the world on fire and in the midst of the more impressive season.
Don't blame Batum for being captivated by the moment, especially after Durant put up a historically excellent performance right in front of him. Don't be surprised when he starts singing LeBron's praises after traveling to South Beach for a Mar. 24 showdown, either.
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