Kevin Durant shows no sign of slowing down in what is his 16th year in the NBA and 35th year on the planet Earth. With the exception of his 3-point shooting, his numbers so far this season are better than his career numbers, roughly equal to his MVP year in 2013-14 when he was 25. He’s leading the NBA in points scored and minutes and if he can get his 3-point shooting up, he could wind up with another 50/40/90 season.
It’s truly extraordinary and even a bit lost in the Nets season of controversy after controversy. But it is also worrisome for those in charge of making sure that KD remains KD over the long haul and the Nets get the best out of his talents as they (still) try to win it all.
In regular comments on the situation, Brian Lewis recounts, Jacque Vaughn noted that there are internal discussions about how to do both, despite Durant’s famous line, “Let me die out there.”
“It’s not ideal,” Vaughn said recently in one of those comments. “While we’re in the win-now mode, win today’s game, we are behind the scenes talking about what the stretch looks like beyond tomorrow, beyond the next day. So it is on our minds.”
Durant has played all of the Nets 25 games (a number by the way that is exceeded by only one team, the Jazz). Maybe between Wednesday and Saturday when the Nets play three games in four days he’ll get a rest. Don’t bank on it though. Vaughn has also said the Nets need to win some games, not just take positives from losses.
Beyond that long term planning, the Nets and Vaughn are also trying to figure out just best to take advantage of those skills during games. Vaughn talked extensively in Sunday’s post-game about the Nets players did not rise to the occasion when the Celtics doubled up on Durant in the fourth after crowding the paint in the first three quarters. It worked, as Lewis notes. The Nets shot 7-of-19 and were outscored, 28-23 in the fourth. Game over.
“That’s why the game in so interesting, right?” Vaughn said philosophically. “[The] previous years they double-teamed him. First three quarters they didn’t, then he started going off in the post and they double-teamed him. And it was a mixed bag for us.”
Indeed. While Durant shot 13-of-24 for the game, the rest of the team was a miserable 21-of-60 — or 35 percent, per Lewis. Kyrie Irving was only 7-of-21 including 1-of-5 from deep. Royce O’Neale 2-of-8 from deep. To make matters worse, Seth Curry got into early foul trouble, T.J. was still getting his feet wet and the Nets were missing three players who might have helped the offense: Ben Simmons, Yuta Watanabe and Edmond Sumner. Only Joe Harris — 5-of-10 and 3-of-5 from deep — rose to the occasion.
“Just overall, we have to take advantage when teams double-team,” Vaughn said post-game. “If you’re going to send a second guy at our best player, then we’ve got to make you pay for it. … Two times it was T.J. [Warren], who hasn’t practiced or played with us; little hesitation on his cut down the middle.
“Then the other times, I think once we swing-swing that thing and it gets to the second guy, you’ve got to shoot it. So they were able to close out on more than couple occasions where they double-team, still were able to close out on our shooters. Can’t allow that to happen.”
Even a fans’ eye-test could see that over-passing often wound up in a turnover. Move the ball, yes; hesitate when open, no.
We’ll learn more later today and who’s playing Wednesday night vs. Charlotte. Will Vaughn rest Durant? What’s the status of Simmons who’s now missed three straight with a calf strain and was scheduled to be re-evaluated this week, and Watanabe, who’s now missed eight straight with a hamstring issue. We know who Kevin Durant is, but even he could use some help.
- Kevin Durant’s current Nets burden is ‘not ideal’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post