Heaven's Kevin: Welcome to Star-Dome, Durant
Durant has always been special. Especially on the offensive side of the court. These are the two most convincing points that make Durant the sure shot new star of the NBA.
The whistle blows. Durant sprints to the baseline and back. Suicides. Durant's out-running everyone, just as he usually does in real games. This could be what you would expect from a sophomore that has a ROY award sitting at home. But even though he gracefully played last season, and more than deserved that award, people seem to not take any notice about Durant's game.
This is most likely because he plays in Oklahoma City on the worst squad in the NBA, a team that generates no interest from any fans. That's a fine reason to ignore the Thunder, but there's no reason to ignore the face of their franchise, and possibly the league.
At the end of the season, Durant finished fourth in the league in scoring. No one seemed to care, despite the fact that, for a player under the age of 20, Durant ranks one of the highest in NBA history for points scored: More than Kobe, more than Wade. Plus, since Kobe came out of high school, he played one more season than Durant before turning 20; yet Durant still totaled a good amount more points than he did.
Let's take a look at the Thunder right now. They may have just suffered the worst record in the league for two straight seasons, but they have great young and fresh talent, presumably led by Durant.
And, finally, now, at the end of the season, some people start taking notice about how good this kid's game is. At a recent USA team try-out, a scout said that he thought Durant had a better and more complete offensive games than players with the likes of LeBron and Kobe.
Maybe they realize that a new super-star of the league could be the face of the next generation. Some people blame Durant for not leading the Thunder to a better record than they finished with, but as a 20-year-old, he still needs some time to mature; maybe this season will be the determining one.
Much like Mayo, Durant popped up high on the radar at an early age. In 10th grade he was a star for Oak Hill, then, for his final two high-school years, he made his way to D.C and played for Montrose Christian. He went on to be named a two-time all-American. He won two AAU championships there, most notably playing side-by-side with now fellow NBA players, Micheal Beasley and Ty Lawson.
Durant is a player who quite simply refuses to take no for an answer. When told he coudn't play because of his lack of good grades, he stepped up his school work and led his team; when they said he was too weak and too inexperienced to play at the highest level, the NBA, he undoubtedly proved all wrong by being in the top five scoring per game.
Durant's time in college will be remembered as the best in Texas history, and quite frankly, one of the best freshman seasons ever. He averaged in the high-20's in points and managed to get an average of 12 boards per game.
He returned home after the season, with more baggage than expected, carrying a Naismith and a Wooden award. He won Player of the Year for the league, too, though that didn't bother USC who threw them away in the second round of the NACB tournament.
He decided he'd had enough time in college, and went for the NBA draft. He had no idea that the team that would pick him, his future team, would literally become HIS TEAM.
The suspense on which dominant college player—Oden or Durant—would go first in the draft was soon discovered, when Blazers went ahead and picked with the preceding one. Durant was left with a team and a 20-62 record the year before.
Still, he played wonderfully and won the Rookie of the Year, even without Seattle's past two best players (Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen). He even scored 46 points in the Rookie/Soph game.
When you would watch him play so smoothly, and become the leader of his team, it was as if he had forgotten that the NBA was supposed to be harder than college. He continued to score and rebound in the exact same fashions.
Just after that season, though, Durant learned he would no longer be a Seattle Sonic...the team would move to Oklahoma. Owner Clay Bennet thought it the right decision, and after a year of anticipation, made his move.
This move would naturally shock some young players in the League, as even a trade still startles the more mature players. But Durant said he was so used to it, with all the moving around he did in D.C from high school to high school. "I'm looking forward to being in Oklahoma (...) I've moved around so much that it doesn't even matter to me anymore."
Oklahoma has bad weather most of the year, and the bad weather hit hard. First of all, they were named the Thunder. Seriously? I didn't even know they had officially moved into Oklahoma until a month into the season, which could have been the case with other fans.
Some people thought that year would be the year—the changing one—but it ended up being almost as bad as the first. They were getting ruined entering the first 20 matches of the season, and Durant endured his first fired coach real early in the season. Scott Brooks took over the job.
As much as it must sometimes be hard for Durant to be continuously ignored plainly due to the fact of where he plays and what record they have, it could be ideal for his maturing process. I say this because one of the reasons huge potential players end up being busts, or arrogant, is because they get so much attention, love, and money that they tend to forget about just playing basketball.
Durant also is one of the few elite players who hasen't been caught with drugs or alcohol. He won't appear on CRIBS because he doesn't buy gold earphones or have 10 beds in one room. He doesn't let money get to his head. Brooks also claims that he rarely goes out at night, partying till the morning.
Durant says if he's bored, he'll invite some friends over to watch TV, or to play NBA 2K9, or to rap and make a hip-hop beat or whatever. But, obviously, it's still not all fun and games. As mature as he's become, Durant's still a typical young player dealing with the challenges of experiencing losing, and not letting it stop his individual focus.
Furthermore, he's dealing with the tough critics telling him to buff up, showing up the people who say he can't be a leader yet.
Oklahoma didn't peak, and had limited success with their new coach, but in some games showed real promise. They also looked bright for the future, with young guns running up and down the floor. They made some decent trades for big men. Perfect examples from games that showed real promise, come when I was reading Kicks and heard that the Thunder had beaten the Spurs not once, but twice in the same two weeks.
I quickly rushed to see the stats of those two games, and not fully to my surprise, Durant put in 28 and 31. Big numbers, but it's not always the case that if Durant has big games, so does his team. He's scored in the high 30's, 40's, with a good FG% and rebounding numbers, where the Thunder just coudn't seem to prevail in victory.
"I feel like God has given me (us) these abilities, and I can't doubt him." Durant after a 107-104 loss.
If the Thunder doesn't come out with a win from the court, it's Durant who gets ridiculed and blamed. He is generally criticized for his height, and yet he still can't finish it off in the the post (offense or defense).
"I know I have to guard my man to the best of my ability, but I have a long way to go," Durant said after yet another loss.
Now that Oklahoma is in summer, after their second disastrous season, Brooks with a guarantee to coach for the coming year, all are wondering how this rotation will benefit them for the better next season. They have a young crop of players, with a few veterans for guidance. Manager Sam Presti, with the third pick in the draft, got college star James Harden.
Durant and Presti both realize that the puzzle is coming together quickly, and they can both smell the playoffs from where they are. Hopefully, like he did last season, Durant will continue to grow and improve his team's and his own individual statistics. This is the year Durant finally would like to see him and his team get recognition.
He's just a third-year player, nothing special—except that he is bound to be the next NBA dominant star.
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