The cover of The Oklahoman read in bold text “Mr. Unreliable” with a photo of Kevin Durant below. Pretty harsh words for the potential MVP candidate. I, like many other who have found out about the post, have not had a chance to read the piece and yet I do know that you don’t have to read the book to judge its cover. The front title says it all. That front title tells us what Oklahoma thinks of its superstar. That title tells me the state that the Thunder are in. That title says this; Is Kevin Durant the man we thought he was?
The answer is a thousand times yes. Kevin Durant’s shooting problems are not a result of his short comings, but as a result of the team as a whole. Some people want to blame Kevin Durant. Others want to blame Scott Brooks. I like to blame Russell Westbrook. The reality is that it is the whole team as an entire unit. This team is on the wrong end of a 3-2 series, which for the record could have been 4-1 Grizzlies, and the odds have quickly shifted over to the Grizzlies. They are pushing the Thunder to their limit, allowing this team to seemingly fall apart at the seem. This is an ironic series to me because the major knock on the young Thunder team is their lack of toughness and physicality and yet this is where the Grizzlies shine and are beating the Thunder.
Who do we blame? We live in a society were an answer is needed for everything. Somebody has to answer for the Thunder losing 3 games to the Grizzlies. Somebody has to be the scapegoat, and that goat will be Kevin Durant whether he deserves it or not. But that brings me to my question? Does he deserve the blame? He deserves some since he has not played in a very MVP manner. The Grizzlies have his number and they get to Durant early and often. From not allowing him to get to the basket unless he forces something and hopes he gets fouled, to forcing him to take bad shots late in the shot clock the Grizzlies have drawn the map to stopping the Thunder – do not let them ,specifically Durant, get into the paint. Look at the crazy 4 point shot Durant made in game 2. Think about how difficult that shot was because he was not even open – he had a defender draped all over him. The motto in that Grizzlies locker room is a simple one : no easy buckets. This is why every game these teams play feels like a war of attrition – you are witnessing talent play effort.
I still stand by my claim that the Thunder will never win a championship with Russell Westbrook as their point guard. I believe that while Westbrook is a great player, he can not be trusted with the ball late and his shoot-my-way-out-of-anything style of play still proves to be useless in the playoffs. Because of this, the Thunder do not have an offense that is organized. Westbrook and Durant play one on one basketball together at the same time. While it works for the regular season, it does not quite work in the playoffs. The redundancy fails the Thunder because the ball dies in their hands meaning that in a possession the offense stops with either Westbrook or Durant. When you play a defensive team that strives off teams that play one on one basketball, like say the Grizzlies, you need to be able to switch to a team oriented style of play. One that favors more than two players. It would also help if you hand a bench. All of these things piece together the soap opera of the Thunder. Tonight they may find themselves going home a lot earlier then everybody except people who live in Memphis figured. And the scapegoat for it is the front office and the front office alone.
For starters, the Thunder were best the year they went to the finals. They had a very big boost of their bench because of some bearded guy named James Harden. For what ever reason that til this day I still do not understand, the Thunder not only let him get away, but traded him for Kevin Martin. The head scratching move did two things. It removed an advantage they had off the bench because if you remember, Harden did not start but was putting up starter numbers. He was an effective head of a 3 headed dragon in Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. The second is that it took away a third of the offensive load away. What made the move even more confusing is the timing – Harden had one more year left on his contract, they could have waited an entire year to trade him if they really felt that he would walk away. Since then the Thunder have been missing Harden. Not just for his points, but his points from the bench and his ability to come up big in the fourth. The second dumb move the Thunder did? Not pulling the trigger on a trade that would have sent Westbrook to Boston and Rondo to OKC. I firmly believe that this would have been a great trade because Rondo is a great facilitator. what you give up in offense in Westbrook they would have gained mounds back on defense. Let us not forget that Rondo is a walking triple double. I believe not taking this trade hindered this team’s long-term success and is a small but important contribution made by the heads of this team for this current streak of failures. With the way the team is constructed, it is very hard to add anymore pieces. One issue is money, but the bigger issue is that adding another star player, or impact players will just add to the chaos on offense. Not to mention the question of who would you add? They have shown that you can’t quite plug players into Scott Brooks’ system when they added Caron Butler for example. This team is going to need to be retooled to revolve around Durant, which should have been done 3 years ago. (I will explain that another time).
What’s “Unreliable” is the Thunder front office and how they grow this team. If changes are not made quickly, they could see either Durant or Westbrook or even both leave this team in the next 3 years (Durant is a UFA in 2017). If they lose tonight, Which I would not be shocked if they did, They have to look at shaking up this team for the sake of Kevin Durant. Call him whatever you want Oklahoma City. He is and will be for a very long time the best basketball player your city has laid its eyes on. Before you go berating him why don’t you take some time to reflect on the fact that since he has been on the team, he has taken this team to the playoffs the past 4 years in a row, bringing them to the finals once. I’m pretty sure the Thunder making it to the Finals is the most exciting thing to happen there in 20 years. But hey, what do I know.