NBA Sunday: Is It Kevin Durant’s Time?
Scanning the historical NBA landscape and one thing becomes increasingly clear; when it comes to climbing the league’s pecking order, dues must be paid – in full. It took Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons years to unseat Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics as the top team in the Eastern Conference. It then took years for Michael Jordan to lead the Chicago Bulls past Thomas’ Pistons.
At the same time, Hall of Famers such as Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkins ended their careers without championship rings while failing to get past Bird, Thomas and Jordan during the bulk of their respective tenures in the league. Quite simply no matter how great the player, not everyone ends up presiding at the throne.
In today’s game it has become widely accepted that Miami HEAT forward LeBron James has finally unseated Kobe Bryant at the top of the ladder after winning his first championship this June. And if that is the largely held belief for James, then on the flipside most believe Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will be the next to wear the crown – in a few years.
Durant hears this talk and line of thinking, but is in complete disagreement. The three-time league scoring champion believes his time is now and his dues have been fully paid.
“I’ve heard a few times, in three or four years, this league is going to be yours … I don’t like that. Because I think I’m established now. My time is now,” Durant said according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post. “I feel as though I’ve proved myself these last five years that I can be one of the top players in the league. I’ve got a long way to go to being the ultimate best, but I think my time is now. And I’m starting to enter my prime.”
Durant may have a point. During the Thunder’s NBA Finals run this past season, the team dispatched of three teams (Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs) who have routinely controlled the Western Conference for the last decade and in the process took out three surefire Hall of Famers in Dirk Nowitzki, Bryant and Tim Duncan.
Durant’s play with the U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team this summer may also helped fuel his confidence after he set a record for most points scored (156) in an Olympic Tournament for an American. Durant also closed the show for Team USA in the gold medal game scoring 30 points and emerging as a go to player in the clutch on a squad which featured both Bryant and James on the roster.
“I always felt that I belonged on top with those guys and I just have to continue to keep working to maintain that,” Durant said. “It feels good to be a part of a great group of guys, to do something special for the country. We all respected each other and they never looked at me as the younger guy coming up and waiting his turn. They were just, ‘Go out there and play, do what you do.’ And that’s what I did.”
Dallas, San Antonio and Los Angeles (Lakers) have all reloaded their rosters this summer, while the Thunder have remained relatively stagnant but heading into training camp it’s hard not to envision the Thunder once again at the top of the Western Conference this season.
“We all are going to have to compete. I don’t think no team is going to lay down for anybody,” Durant said. “Everybody has got to play and I like our chances.”
Robin Lopez Looking For Fresh Start in New Orleans
After a promising start with the Phoenix Suns early in his career, things ultimately turned sour for center Robin Lopez, the No. 15 overall pick of the 2008 draft. Lopez was traded by Phoenix last month to the New Orleans Hornets in a three-team also involving the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With the Hornets, Lopez will have a shot to rejuvenate his career and reestablish himself as a defensive minded low post force. Lopez alluded to the Suns’ high tempo style of play unfavorably impacting his play on the court and Hornets defensive approach is the reason he’s looking forward to his stint in New Orleans.
“With the exception of Phoenix, in college and high school I always played with low-scoring successful teams,” Lopez recently told The Advocate. “That is something I can definitely get accustomed to here. I’m excited to be here. We’ve got a young, energetic group.”
One player Lopez is looking forward to playing with is Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft, who comes with a reputation as being an extremely skilled defensive player at the collegiate level.
“From what I’ve seen of him, he’s fantastic,” Lopez said. “He’s got great timing, long athletic. I don’t think I’m too bad of a defensive player, so we make a heck of a tandem down there on the defensive end. Hopefully we can kind of close down some lanes.”
Doug Collins, Frontrunner For Team USA Coaching Spot?
It has been forty years since the U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team’s controversial last second loss in the gold medal game of the 1972 Olympics versus the Soviet Union, but one of its members’ journey may come full circle over the next few months.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins was a member of the 1972 team and has been named in some circles as a frontrunner to replace Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski on the sidelines. Krzyzewski who has led the United States to the last two gold medals has announced he won’t be returning for the 2016 games.
Collins won’t officially put his name in the hat for the position, but considers the rumors flattering and an honor.
“It’s a tremendous honor that somebody would even throw my name out there,” Collins told Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s four years down the road and I understand in this business you hope you are an active coach at the time.”
Collins led the 76ers to the second round of the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2003. Collins who was reportedly burnt out at the end of his previous coaching stints with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, says he’s fully prepared to coach Philadelphia for the next four or five years.
“I am hoping that I am still active and I would like to coach four or five years in Philadelphia,” Collins said. “I feel good about our team and I love my staff, what we are doing and where we are headed. The ownership, Josh [Harris], has been so good to me, so I feel really good about that.”
The Sixers have been active this summer using their amnesty provision on veteran forward Elton Brand and signing guard Nick Young. But the biggest move for the franchise was the acquisition of All-Star center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers which may catapult the team into the top half of the Eastern Conference.