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I get that everyone likes Kevin Durant. I also get that Russell Westbrook is flashier, more stylish, and considered more polarizing than Durant. Totally understandable but it’s time to blame the 2014 NBA MVP for letting the Oklahoma City Thunder lose by 17, 35 and 28 points in the Western Conference Finals.
We use the word superstar way too much. We look at stats and blindly say that per game averages are a way to determine who is worthy of such a title. Paul George was called a superstar by sports journalists and fans alike following last year’s impressive postseason performances. Andrew Sharp of Grantland expressed similar sentiments after Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, though? Let’s talk about Paul George. There’s no more perplexing superstar in the NBA. Since last May, the roller coaster from that Heat series has only gotten crazier. He’s gone from everyone’s favorite most underrated young player to everyone’s MVP candidate to one of the most frustrating players in the league to … wherever we are now.
The problem with this observation is that Paul George has never been a superstar. It’s not just about getting the numbers, but when you get the numbers. George posting 37 points, 2 rebounds, and 6 rebounds in Game 5 was bogus. George’s inflated stats were the result of playing a bored, 2-time champion. In Game 6, the Miami Heat beat down the Pacers in Game 6, 117-92.
Frankly, the Heat could’ve won by 50 points if they felt like it. Why would anyone call Paul George a superstar when they allowed their team to get beat down like that? Frankly, Durant’s lackadaisical performances in the Western Conference Finals are just as embarrassing.
Let’s look at the Durant’s stats during the 2014 Western Conference Finals through 5 games.
- Game 1 (Thunder lost by 17): 28 points, 5 assists, 9 rebounds
- Game 2 (Thunder lost by 35): 15 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds
- Game 3 (Thunder won by 9): 25 points, 3 assists, 10 rebounds
- Game 4 (Thunder won by 13): 31 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds
- Game 5 (Thunder lost by 28): 25 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds
Outside of Game 2, Durant is basically doing what Durant normally does. Is that acceptable? I don’t know.
I’m not suggesting that Durant is playing like an average player. He’s giving consistent production (certainly can’t say that about Paul George) but it’s sometimes hard to tell he’s on the floor. As mentioned earlier, making your presence known is more important than putting up the the normal per game numbers. Getting points to stop an opponent’s run or protect a lead during an important sequence are a big deal when momentum is swinging. Securing huge rebounds, scrambling to loose balls, gargantuan dunks, big blocks, and other demoralizing plays have all come courtesy of Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook this series.
Serge Ibaka going iBlocka on a strained calf. https://t.co/9f7XTe91QW
— Josh Planos (@JPlanos) May 26, 2014
No expects Durant to put together the eye-popping highlights that Westbrook blesses the basketball world with every night, but everyone should be more critical of Durant even if we like him. The criticism shouldn’t be the blind rage it was before he got the MVP. There’s a way to critique without being unfair and abrasive. Here’s the main point: Kevin Durant needs to step it up. A superstar doesn’t allow his team to get their teeth kicked in multiple games in just over a week. As MVP, he should shoulder more responsibility than everyone else. It is what it is.
To end on a good note, I leave you with some jazz for the rest of your day.
Think good thoughts, Thunder fans. I’m just cheering for a good game.
Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.