I didn’t know Kevin Durant had tattoos until a few months ago. He comes across as a harmless teenager who wears his backpack to postgame press conferences. Now it appears he’s more of an on-court killer than he lets on. The Basketball Jones posted that picture of Durant from July 9th in China. Bet you had no idea he was hiding all that ink underneath his jersey huh?
Throughout the NBA playoffs, we’ve seen a few constants: Dirk Nowitzki putting up points, the Thunder blowing leads, and reporters asking stupid questions at press conferences. One of those dumb questions came after Oklahoma City was eliminated from the playoffs Wednesday night. A reporter asked Kevin Durant, the franchise player for the Thunder, how he felt about seeing Dirk succeed at his expense. KD gave about as good of a response to the bad question as he possibly could have.
“I’m not happy at all. I’m a competitor,” Durant explained. “I really didn’t care about what he went through the last three or four years. I know it’s been tough for him, I’m sure he’s happy now he’s going back to the Finals, but I’m not happy for him at all because I wanted to be there. But [sometimes] it happens like that.”
Oklahoma City is in the Western Conference Finals and one of only four teams left in the NBA playoffs. Because of their success in the postseason they’ve received a great deal of media attention, and most of it has been focused on the perceived selfish play of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has been criticized for taking too many shots, taking low-percentage shots, and not deferring to superstar Kevin Durant frequently enough.
Durant has defended Westbrook repeatedly throughout the postseason, as has coach Scott Brooks. They both have said this is the way Westbrook has played all season and it’s led to success. But an issue developed following Game 2 when Brooks left Westbrook on the bench the entire fourth quarter in Dallas while Eric Maynor led the team to victory. Though Westbrook said after the game he was fine being on the bench since they won, he seemed to be bothered by it. Westbrook could be seen yelling at his coach from the sideline immediately after getting pulled.
Oklahoma City is a young team, so it’s pretty easy to narrow down the list of players who could have said that. Only Royal Ivey, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins, and Nazr Mohammed have more than five years of NBA experience amongst Thunder players. My money is on Perkins just because he’s a new guy who isn’t as attached to the situation, though I could be wrong. That really is immaterial; what matters is if it’s true.
It is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s youth that continues to plague them in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks — not their talents. After falling in Game 3 at home 93-87 and going down 2-1 in the series, the Thunder now face a treacherous challenge to overcome the hot Mavericks and their late-game closer Dirk Nowitzki.
The Thunder arguably have the best roster remaining in the postseason based on skill level and talent. They feature two All-NBA talents in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, one of the best post defenders in Kendrick Perkins and a great cast on the bench. Unlike the three superstars in Miami, this is a complete team. Yet, thanks to their immaturity and youth, they’ve failed to figure things out late in games to come out on top.
Dirk dropped 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting and broke an NBA playoff record for made free throws in a game without a miss by going 22-of-22 from the line.
Kevin Durant tried his best to retaliate, scoring 40 points, but his teammates weren’t up to the task. The Thunder’s performance wasn’t as respectable as the single-digit final deficit suggests; they were outplayed in every aspect of the game.
Any time your opponent shoots 53% from the field and outscores your bench 53-22, you’re in major trouble.
So what does OKC have to do to bounce back and even the series 1-1?
Here are three key adjustments the Thunder can make to win Game 2:
During Oklahoma City Thunder post-game press conferences, two things go hand-in-hand: Kevin Durant and his backpack. For whatever reason, the 21-year-old superstar does all his post game blabber wearing his backpack completely strapped up and ready to go. Like any smart company would do, Nike is capitalizing on the fashion statement by selling the carrying book bag as part of Durant’s KD III line.
It has almost become symbolic for Durant to rock the backpack during his sessions with the media. However, some fans may be disappointed with what’s actually in it. According to Durant, “iPad, headphones, bible and phone chargers,” is all he carries.
Nike is has wisely decided to capitalize off this entertaining fad. Durant, unlike LeBron, is one of the most loved players in the NBA. When young basketball players go to purchase his shoes, they’ll almost certainly feel obligated to buy the matching backpack.
While Nike looks to profit off Durant’s choice in style, Durant himself has other things to worry about. One huge one will be slowing down the Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki’s quest to enhance his legacy. After the Game 1 loss, Durant will need his teammate Russell Westbrook (3-15 shooting in Game 1) — not his backpack — to have any chance of bouncing back.
When you look at the way Durant used to be, this revelation is actually surprising.
Kevin Durant and Greivis Vasquez are squaring off against each other in the NBA playoffs, but they’re actually used to playing on the same side. TNT shared a story about Vasquez and Durant during Game 4 of the Grizzlies-Thunder playoff series, giving some background on how close the two are. Folks from the Maryland-area probably already knew that Grizzlies backup guard Greivis Vasquez and Thunder star Kevin Durant were high school teammates, but for most people it was a surprise to learn they played together in high school.
In fact, Marty Smith of TNT reported that “Vasquez and Durant were best friends in high school.” He added that Durant was one of the guys who taught Vasquez how to speak English while the two were teammates at Montrose Christian. Vasquez is from Venezuela and did not come to the U.S. until 2004 when he arrived to play basketball and attend high school. Another aspect of their relationship Snyder shared is that the two would arrive at school at 6:30 in the morning and shoot around until school started. He also said that Durant took the train to school at 4:30 in the morning.