Because of You

Kevin Durant’s numbers are exactly what would be expected of a superstar.

It’s a good thing for the Oklahoma City Thunder that Kevin Durant isn’t all superstar though. That’s not a knock on Kevin Durant. In fact, it’s the biggest reason why the Thunder have been able to mature into one of the two best teams in the league. Maybe the best.

Sure, KD has become not only the best pure scorer in the NBA but also a much more complete player. Yeah, he has established himself as a closer that we can compare to Michael Jordan without sounding completely ridiculous. It’s true, he has led OKC to the NBA Finals.

But the Thunder are thriving now because of Kevin Durant’s personality. His easy-going nature has allowed Oklahoma City to become the dominating force that they are today. While superstars are generally thought of to be this type A, dictatorship-like personality, Kevin Durant is governing his team democratically.

It feels like eons ago when Russell Westbrook was being condemned for his apparent lack of a conscious and Kevin Durant was getting criticized for his reluctance to take the bull by the horns. Unlike a dirty prison rat, Kevin Durant continued to defend his partner in crime no matter how out of hand Westbrook got. Durant even fired back at Skip Bayless saying “we’re worse when I take more shots” a couple of months ago.

Without Kevin Durant’s willingness to let his shoot first point guard shoot first far too often, the Thunder wouldn’t be up 1-0 in the NBA Finals as we speak. Durant let Westbrook play through his mistakes. His many, many mistakes.

Oh, how the times have changed.

Westbrook is not the same player these days. He still takes lots of shots. Last night, Westbrook had 24 field goal attempts to Durant’s 20. But the change is most noticeable in key situations. During the playoffs, Westbrook has finally learned when to defer to the best player on his team. He knows when he should sit back and watch the magic instead of trying to make it.

It took a bit longer than it probably should have but everyone grows up at a different rate. For some odd reason, Russell Westbrook deluded himself into thinking, and/or was out to prove, that he was the superstar in Oklahoma City.

If Kevin Durant handled this situation in the authoritarian manner that many thought he should, it might very well have stunted Westbrook’s development. Knowing Westbrook, he may have responded to fire with fire, rebelling to the oppressiveness like a teenager does to his parents telling him to hit the books. However, Kevin Durant let Russell Westbrook mature at his own pace. He didn’t force the issue and Westbrook responded accordingly.

The evidence was there again on Tuesday night as Kevin Durant poured in 17 of his game-high 36 points in the final period. Westbrook may have finished the game with more shots but he picked his spots, the right ones, in the 4th quarter.

A championship this season isn’t necessary to validate what Kevin Durant did for his team. He didn’t knee-jerk his way to a controversy and the Thunder are on their way to many more exhilarating championship runs. He may have done very little over the past year to squash the Skip Bayless led criticism but very little was precisely what Oklahoma City, and more importantly, Westbrook required.

Russell Westbrook is changed man now. He didn’t need an intervention. He just needed time.

Not many superstars would have been able to give Westbrook the time he needed. But Kevin Durant isn’t like most superstars.

And because of it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting pretty, a game up on the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

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15 Responses to Because of You

  1. Glad to see someone else make that point on Westbrook. He just needs a bit of time. Asking a scoring guard with minimal ‘natural’ point guard skills to simply ‘become’ a point guard on the highest level overnight, simply isn’t realistic. Great stuff!

  2. audioEMIT says:

    Great point on Westbrook. The way that KD and Westbrook allowed themselves to mature together has created dynamics and a foundation that can’t be found in Miami. Sure, the Big 3 have the talent and know how to produce numbers, but without the team dynamics, they fall short to KD and Westbrook.

    Phenomenal improvement by Westbrook. Amazing team building skills by Durant.

  3. After a sluggish first half, these two showed up pretty strong in half number two.

    24-4 transition advantage for OKC tells you all you need to know.

    Adjust and adjust quickly, Miami.

  4. rudyvbrown says:

    As a psychology major, I really like the way you played off of Durant’s and Westbrook’s personalities, and connected them to game one. I’m excited to read more.

  5. rongleeson says:

    Durant and Westbrook proved they are the stronger duo on the court, both physically and mentally. LeBron will need Wade to overcome his struggles like Westbrook has or the Heat will have little chance. I expect LeBron to bounce back but his supporting cast will need to arrive altogether for this series to go beyond five games.

  6. Durant and the rest of the Thunder will prevail. I have no faith in Westbrook because in the past he has lost more games than he has won. My suggestions would be to start Derek Fisher at point guard and place Westbrook at the 2 spot to make the position matchups more uneven then they already are. Thats just my suggestion Coach Brooks.

  7. Daniel Solis says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your statements on Durant.. His demeanor has always been a positive one, even before he slid on that Seattle Sonics jersey as a rookie. His maturity and talent are something to marvel at. It’s rare to see other star players act the way Durant did while undergoing Westbrook’s selfishness as a PG. As you noted, it was great to see Russell dish it off to Durant in the closing moments throughout these Finals. Westbrook is one of the best guards in the league, but this team will surely earn the gold if he’s in sync with Durant.

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  9. sangye1348 says:

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  10. nickfaris says:

    Agree with pretty much everything here. OKC’s progression even from just last year is astounding, when they showed supreme promise but couldn’t hold a lead against Dallas. This year, they’re shrugging off early deficits and getting themselves back into every game. The maturation of both young stars has been necessary to make it happen – Durant couldn’t do it on his own, even with the fourth-quarter chops he’s displayed. Great to see Westbrook finding the balance between looking for his own shot and setting up guys for easy dunks.

  11. Chuckie Maggio says:

    Westbrook’s handled being a natural shooting guard and being thrusted into the point guard position very well. These two are the best duo in the NBA and will be for years to come. Great stuff man!

  12. Thanks for the kind words at A Baller’s Paradise. We intend to post game wraps as prompt as possible after each contest in The Finals. Be sure to check back in the near future for what we hope are original Heat-Thunder insights. By the way, I (ETC) thoroughly enjoyed your breakdown of the Durant-Westbrook relationship. In past months, I had pondered Durant’s influence over Westbrook’s maturation, but had yet to put pen to paper (or, in reality, hand to keyboard). Great work.

  13. HoopMashup says:

    Kevin Durant is arguably one of the best players in the NBA today. But in order for him to fulfill his destiny, he needs a good team as well. If we compare the Miami against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins will really play a big role in this series knowing the fact that the Heat lacks a great point guard and a great defender under the paint.

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