In the 2013 playoffs, the fortune of the Oklahoma City Thunder were on their way to defending their Western Conference crown when this play changed their fortunes:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePtiNqJ0VPQ&w=560&h=315] Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury that would have him miss the rest of the playoffs. After this injury, the Thunder and their playoff hopes fell on the shoulders of their big star, Kevin Durant. And at that point and time, Durant was not ready to shoulder the load. He was trying to do any and everything to help his team win, but he just had not expanded his game enough to handle those responsibilities. He had enough to beat the Rockets, but they fell in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games.
Heading into the offseason, it was not for certain when Russell Westbrook would return and many thought his absence would lead to more struggles from Oklahoma City. We never really got to witness early how the Thunder would look without Westbrook because he came back pretty early from his injury. And with Westbrook returning early, Oklahoma City served notice that they were a team to be reckoned with. But just like last year, Westbrook suffered another injury. The dynamic young point guard was again having trouble with his knee and his return to the team was not expected until after the All-Star break. And again the whispers began to come again about the Thunder falling back to the pack without Russell. But little did they know that this was only the time for Durant to obtain the glow.
For those that don’t know what the glow is, check out this movie clip from Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWVhiIisH30&w=420&h=315] For those that don’t understand how Bruce Leroy obtained the glow or haven’t seen this movie, you must understand that Leroy went through some trials to get to where he ended up. He passively fought some battles with the villain in the scene, Sho Nuff. But eventually, he learned from those situations in the past and looked deep inside himself to find the power he had all along. Durant, like Leroy, is a pretty passive person in his demeanor. And to his detriment sometimes, he does not have that alpha personality that you see from great players all the time. But one thing Durant has done this year is learn from the past. Instead of allowing the team to sink while Westbrook is out, Durant has taken the reins and taken over this team.
Currently, he has led the Thunder to nine straight wins and carried the Thunder offensively with 12 straight games of 30+ points. But it’s not just that he is scoring, it’s how he is doing it. Coming down the stretch of games, Durant is coming up with any and every clutch basket that his team needs. And unlike last year in the playoffs, he is also finding ways to be a facilitator and looks more comfortable in that role. The growth of Durant is undeniable. Just when you thought that he could not get any better, he acquires a keen killer instinct. And with his play so far this year, it seems like he may be the next person to hoist the NBA’s MVP award. It’s still a long season, but the gap is starting to close between two of the best players in the NBA, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
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