Kevin Durant is the second best basketball player walking planet earth right now. He leads the second best team in the NBA. He was second in the MVP voting last year and almost certainly will be again. He was the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft (behind Greg Oden and his unfortunate knees).
Durant is tired of it. He is fired up.
Durant is on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated that hits newsstands this week, and he is featured in a profile by SI’s fantastic senior writer Lee Jenkins. In that Durant is open about not liking that No. 2 label (quotes via The Oklahoman).
“I’ve been second my whole life. I was the second best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it….
“I’m not taking it easy on [LeBron]. Don’t you know I’m trying to destroy the guy every time I go on the court?”
I love that his has this fire in him. It is that drive that will some day get him all the things he wants.
But sorry Kevin, but you’re going to have to live life as No. 2 a little longer.
There will come a day when the Oklahoma City Thunder will win an NBA crown (if they keep this core together). There very likely will be an MVP or two in Durant’s future. There may well come a day when we acknowledge Durant as the best player in the world (right now I would say he’s the best scorer in the world, just ahead of ‘Melo, but he doesn’t have LeBron’s all around game).
But that year is not this year.
Barring something radical happening, it’s hard to see how the Heat team that beat the Thunder in five games last finals, that beat them twice in the regular season, that is better than they were a year ago is going to lose to the Thunder.
Just know that Durant is not going to stop trying to make it so. He wants what LeBron and Miami have.
LeBron James looked good in the opening night ceremony against the Boston Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers star put up a stat line of 29 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in the win over the Eastern Conference rival.
That doesn’t mean that James is done dealing with a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of all five of Cleveland’s preseason games. Speaking to reporters after practice on Thursday, The King said that he will indeed play on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he won’t do it under the circumstances he prefers.
Specifically, LeBron said that because of his injury, he’s been unable to get into the kind of shape he’d like to be in heading into the season.
“I just want to get to where I should be,” James said after participating in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice Thursday. “The ankle and the foot injury just kind of kept me out and set me back further than I would like, but I got some time now along the course of these games that we got. We got two back-to-backs coming up, so that’s going to help and we have some opportunity to get some practice time in as well.”
“I’m out of shape, very out of shape for my expectations,” James told TNT’s Kristen Ledlow during his on-court postgame interview Tuesday.
No doubt it will be tough to keep one of the most durable stars in NBA history out of of the regular season games they need to start this season off right. However, this is the kind of thing that slows down the careers of aging stars, and if I can play devil’s advocate here for a minute, this is what we’ve been looking for from James for some time.
I’m not saying this is the beginning of the end for LeBron, but it is an important enough thing to note and to keep a pin in for future reference.
Meanwhile, James is still doing great stuff off the court like this:
LOS ANGELES — This isn’t new news, but a lot of NBA fans forgot it.
Last June the NBA suspended then Pistons now Lakers guard two games for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan.” Those were to be the first two games of next season — the Clippers game Thursday followed by the Suns Friday.
Lakers coach Luke Walton played it close to the vest, not revealing who would start at the two in KCP’s place. The most logical answer may be Jordan Clarkson, but Walton likes him creating shots with the second unit. Other options are limited, Luol Deng is possible, they could go small with backup point guard Tyler Ennis or bigger with Corey Brewer. (Josh Hart might have been the best call, but the rookie is out with a sore Achilles.)
Whoever starts it will be a blow to the defense-starved Lakers to be without their best perimeter defender.
This summer, after landing Avery Bradley, the Pistons chose to renounce the rights to Caldwell-Pope, setting him free into what was a difficult market. Even for a good wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, when the market dried up so did the chance for a decent multi-year deal. The Lakers grabbed him for one-year at $18 million.
Caldwell-Pope’s agent is Rich Paul, who happens to be LeBron James‘ agent (and he’s a free agent next summer), but whatever the ulterior motives this was a good signing by the Lakers. If KCP works out this season for them they would be in the driver’s seat to re-sign him next summer (although the Lakers would not have his Bird rights).
Ah yes, Hoodie Melo. The new, improved version of Carmelo Anthony that is much better than the old one, mostly because he isn’t playing for the New York Knicks. Also, he is often seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
Of course, as is often the case in the NBA, when a cultural phenomenon comes along there’s often plan to make money off of it following close behind. That appears to be the case here, as the Thunder announced special Hoodie Melo sweatshirts that were selling before the game against the New York Knicks on Thursday.
The sweatshirts mimic the style of a popular Jordan brand logo, Carmelo’s shoe sponsor.
Carmelo stayed true to form throughout the warm-up session before the game, taking to the floor during lineups wearing — you guessed it — a hoodie.
Of course, there was lots of intrigue during the Thursday night game between Anthony and his former team, with the first points of his career coming in Oklahoma City looking like this:
Long live Hoodie Melo. May his brand forever beat forecasted sales numbers.
The Warriors might not have Draymond Green against the Pelicans tomorrow, but Golden State will have these awesome jerseys:
Fresh. To. Death.