Kevin Durant and Scottie Pippen beef over team basketball

Kevin Durant after Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets - Game Seven
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Kevin Durant just played an all-time great playoff series.

His Game 5 was astonishing. He was nearly as good in in Game 7, making an incredible overtime-forcing buzzer beater.

But he air-balled late in the extra period, and the Nets lost to the Bucks.

Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, via Tyler R. Tynes of GQ:

It’s not an individual game, you can’t go into basketball and beat nobody with an individual record. And I used this example of what happened to Kevin Durant just the other day: this is the first time we’ve ever really seen Kevin Durant have to be the man and bring the team home. We ain’t never really had to see that because he’s had [Russell] Westbrook, Steph Curry, Klay [Thompson]. He’s been beating people, definitely in Golden State, by committee. With a team. He did that, but that team already knew how to win without KD. But you put KD in Brooklyn, and Kyrie [Irving] gets hurt and James Harden ain’t that guy, now KD not only has to score for them but also make plays for them. And this is no knock to KD, but they asked me, “Has he surpassed LeBron James?” And my answer was: LeBron James knows team basketball better than KD.

KD can score better than LeBron, probably always have been able to. But has he surpassed LeBron? Naw. He tried to beat the Milwaukee Bucks instead of utilizing his team. You see what I’m saying? LeBron James would’ve figured out how to beat them and he wouldn’t have been exhausted and he may not have taken the last shot. But LeBron ain’t KD, and KD ain’t LeBron. KD is a shooter, a scorer. But he doesn’t have what LeBron has.

He needs to learn how to utilize his teams. He has to learn how to set up his teammates to be better. That’s it. As great as he is, there’s a [cap] to his [talent]. He could’ve easily made that three, killed them in regulation, and we wouldn’t have been talking about this. But I knew going into overtime, he wasn’t gonna make it. He was taking all the shots. You done played the whole game, bro! And they’ve got guys physically wearing you down. You gonna lose. Giannis was under the same stress but not quite. Giannis got rest and he didn’t have to score every time. KD? He got no rest and pretty much had to put a bucket on the board every time they went down. And he did that, but that’s a lot. If he had a chance to do it all over again he would probably do it the same way. But he ain’t have no more. He shot that last shot and it was shorter than Giannis’ free throw shots. [Laughs.]

But, have you ever seen LeBron take a shot like that? He ain’t gonna take that shot. He’s gonna be smarter. He’s gonna force a double team. That’s what KD wasn’t able to do. He was so exhausted he couldn’t even go to the bucket.

Durant:

I’m glad Pippen acknowledged we wouldn’t be talking about this if Durant were inches back on his final shot in regulation of Game 7, making it a game-winning 3-pointer as opposed to the tying 2-pointer it was. That’s the difference between being celebrated as a winner and getting mocked for resembling Giannis Antetokounmpo on a free throw.

Seems pretty silly.

That said, Pippen makes some fair points.

Durant is great. LeBron has been better. A general assessment of Durant should be glowing. But by comparing him to LeBron, Pippen had to nitpick to separate the two – and sounded pretty harsh in the process.

(Pippen invoking LeBron might be one reason Durant was bothered enough to respond. Or not. Durant doesn’t need much provocation to call someone out on Twitter.)

Durant also does focus on honing his individual skills as opposed to finding whatever solutions necessary to lead his current team to a championship. Mastering individual scoring is a particular priority for Durant.

Of course, Durant improving as a player helps his team. But it’s a different mentality than we’re accustomed to from the biggest superstars – especially Michael Jordan.

Not that the other approach always works. Contrary to Pippen’s claim, LeBron has come up short at the end of many games.

Durant is also right: Pippen is a flawed messenger on team basketball.

Yes, Pippen did refuse to enter a game because Phil Jackson didn’t draw up the game-winning play for him to shoot. And Pippen still defends the decision!

Pippen also delayed surgery so he he could enjoy his summer, even though that caused him to miss games the next season.

I suggest reading the full interview. Pippen says A LOT, including claiming he was the Chicago’s real leader – which is why Durant got in the swipe about the Bulls following Phil Jackson.