Wednesday night NBA grades: I, for one, welcome our new Kevin Durant overlord

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while freaking out about how much time you wasted on Facebook….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. What is there left to say? Call him KD like he prefers, call him the Slim Reaper, call him whatever you want just make sure you add MVP race leader to the sentence. Durant got his first half points mostly in transition as LeBron James and the Heat defense made things tough, but in the second half Durant was the guy we have watched the last dozen games (the streak for 30+ is up to that) — he drained a 27 foot three to silence the crowd when Miami threatened a run. Then he drained shots from everywhere this side of Epcot Center on his way to 33 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the Thunder to their ninth straight win. Durant is playing the best ball of his career right now, and that is saying something.

source:  Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings. This is not just about his 23 points on 16 shots (although that is a good night), rather it’s that his 23rd point gives him 10,000 for his NBA career. We’ve poked fun at Gay’s efficiency in the past (he’s been much better in Sacramento) but the guy can score and 10,000 points in the NBA is a milestone to be celebrated.

source:  Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors. Too bad the voting is already done because Lowry made his “put me on the All-Star team” statement against the Magic with 33 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds. He was on fire in the first quarter with 17 points on 8 shots. As for getting his ticket punched for New Orleans, he either makes the team or is one of the guys talked about as a snub — he’s right on the bubble.

source:  Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. While you haven’t been watching Al Jefferson has been playing well — he’s averaged 26.9 points a game on 55.7 percent shooting, plus 11.9 rebounds a game his last 10 games — and against the Nuggets he had 35 point points on ¬ not many doubles were coming and Jefferson made the Nuggets pay for that.

 

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.