3.19.2007

I Bought My Hairshirt for the Silver Lining



I have yet another reason to abhor March Madness: shit rocked me to sleep so hard, into such an unforgivable stupor, that it's numbed me to all basketball. Especially the motionless lunk that is the right now's NBA. I couldn't be bothered to switch on Kobe's Friday, even once I saw his halftime numbers. And while I watched the Nuggets trample Suns (note: running Nuggets are amazing), Detroit/Dallas barely flickered across my memory banks.

I also can barely remember a single game I watched this weekend, but that's as much on me as the sub-sport itself.

But I'll still take a second to burp up on behalf of my league of less-fleeting substance. Remember a little ways back, when I suggested that Durant's ease on the court would hurt his rep in the pros? Well, I'm now wondering if that day might not come sooner. Witness this quote from the phenom, following The Great Arrestation:

"I have a sour taste in my mouth from ending the season like this," Durant said. "I kind of regret not playing as hard as I could today."

As the Recluse points out, in college people say this kind of thing all the time. It's not so much an admission of half-assedness——it's the kind of desperate, determined soul-searching that seeks to wonder if maybe, just maybe, you could have found an extra ten percent to tack onto 120. That self-lacerating impulse is laudable, since, you know, it shows an even deeper commitment to effort and honor than anything you can do on the court. Plus claiming responsibility, looking deep within for the unknown sin one might have ventured, this is all the utmost in perfection-through-frailty.



When Roy Williams does this, it's a neurosis of drive that demands respect. If a college player speaks these words, it's the unaccustomed flailings of youth, an earnest soul wishing, praying he can find an easy hypothetical to change. Being defeated is hard to deal with; throwing it away, not so much so if you can stand tall and admit it. In college, games are lost and not won so everyone can feel better about themselves. They've tried their hardest, and wish they could try hard enough to make their best better. Certainly that beats acknowledging one's inferiority.

Coming from Durant, though, we're given a window into how this statement would work in the NBA—and why it's never uttered during the playoffs. NBA players are supposed to be perfect, with the mind itself supposedly the first cause of any lapses. If anything goes awry within the context of an NBA game, most likely it will be attributed to an individual player's psychological make-up. Stars are critiqued for personality and character reasons, as if these were the path straight away from everyone achieving Wade-dom. Wade, incidentally, is painted more as a warrior of the heart than a flat-out athletic fiend.



It's impossible for a sane person to watch Durant and not, on some level, wonder where his head is at. Obviously, smooth play does not equal languor, but KD's almost wistful shyness makes his psyche, in effect, property of the NBA. Maybe his youth is the cause of it all, making him just the most extreme variety of the perfect-imperfect college mind. That's cool and all, if you accept that Durant could have the polished, rational game of a 30 year-old and the mind of a teen. Simply put, it's difficult to imagine that kind of basketball IQ not correlate with some slightly more advanced competitive profile. I'm not saying that this is the case, only that Kevin Durant, more than even LeBron at 18, plays grown.

And so the quote coming from him seems not like the generic marvel of the young, hungry soul, but instead the kind of fissure we base our reading of NBA stars on. Their mental imperfection is the pox upon their physical games, as opposed to being the noble technicality that redeems their earthly limitations. In both cases, the mind trumps the body. But at the NCAA level, the mind chastises the body for letting it down, while in the NBA, it's assumed that the mind keeps the perfect body from traveling unmolested into goodness.

34 Comments:

At 3/19/2007 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

stopmikelupica,

I implore you to prove my last post wrong.

 
At 3/19/2007 4:24 PM, Anonymous youshoottoomuch said...

i can't get over the fact that mike dunleavy jr. looks like a really skinny frankenstein.

i read that durant quote more as a tantalizing "will he or won't he?" just as i think if osu get's knocked off in the next round or two (ie. before the final four) oden will come back. this is me wanting all this hype to come crashing down on everyone's head and for next year's final game to be osu v. usc aka half a squad of the following year's rookie all-star team.

and by the way, i know this is an nba blog and all, but does anybody else think its fishy that tim floyd/usc got oj mayo to commit? reggie bush says "nah."

 
At 3/19/2007 4:28 PM, Blogger ~CW~ said...

I'm pretty sure I understand where you're coming from Shoals, and I think the same sort of playing at a mature level also applies to Oden. Maybe it's because he seems to drift through the game as well, but there were two instances Saturday where his use of his strength - perhaps he didn't know it was there? - surprised me.

The first was on an offensive foul in the first half where apparently out of frustration he just lowered his shoulder into the post defender, and I was shocked at the reckless nature of...a college freshman? I thought the same thing when he sent the nearest Musketeer sailing into the basket support at the end of the game, and realized just how mature both Durant and Oden have appeared during the majority of their seasons. Is this their premature commitment to the NBA, going through college with a professional attitude as they await their ascendence into to the proper plaform of play, or simply children trying to act all grown up?

 
At 3/19/2007 4:29 PM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

mayo actually pursued usc from what ive heard. i believe tim floyd has been quoted as saying something to the effect of "i didnt even know he was interested until he called me and said he wanted to commit"

 
At 3/19/2007 4:33 PM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

durant already has the cognitive dissonance thing down, responding to questions about whether or not he would return to texas or jumpt to the pros with "i don't feel that's an appropriate question right now."

wv tqfanz: vtech fans, ebonics style

 
At 3/19/2007 4:45 PM, Blogger Gladhands said...

I'm not that impressed with Durant's game. His horrible misses (airballs and bricks) come far too frequently. Durant is a reasonably quick 6'9" player with long arms and a guard's skill-set who plays one a team that runs very few real plays. That's why he's such an effective college player. I don't think he's tough or athletic enough to dominate in the lig. Best Case Scenario: He's Tayshaun Prince without the defensice intensity.

 
At 3/19/2007 4:58 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Anon 3:34 - this isn't the right post for that discussion - I don't think FreeDarko would appreciate it.

But if you want to read my response, I'll post it on my website (www.stopmikelupica.com) in about 15 minutes. You are welcomed to tell me what I fool I am over there....

 
At 3/19/2007 5:09 PM, Blogger erikg88 said...

Gladhands, you are a madman.

Durant is the real deal, no mistaking it - you reference his ugly misses. I'd ask you to ignore anecdotal evidence (heinous bricks you've witnessed first-hand) and embrace the sweet sweet numbers - 47% from the field and 40% from the arc.

Tayshaun Prince, who you compare him to, was posting 41% and 28.7% as a freshman at Kentucky.

Clearly there is no comparison to be made.

Also, I'm curious as to how being on a team which runs few plays allows him to be effective. Wouldn't a correctly managed star be far more effective, rather than Durant as he has been, creating his own shot largely out of force of will?

 
At 3/19/2007 5:17 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

gladhands, you are the only person who thinks durant will not dominate in the nba.

the worst case scenario is that his frame is too frail, and he can't stay healthy, like shaun livingston.

the best case scenario is that durant is one of the most dominant players the league has ever seen.

 
At 3/19/2007 5:21 PM, Anonymous aaron said...

I don't want to live in a world where Kevin Durant's ceiling is Tayshaun Prince. And neither do you, Gladhands.

I know he's tall and long and everything, but there have been lots of tall, long, guard-like forwards (Odom, Tim Thomas) who never came close to dominating in college (25 and 11 for the season!) like Durant has. He has the tools, the talent and the mentality to excel. Don't front like you're not impressed.

Of course, if he turns into Jonathan Bender, I will sing your praises.

 
At 3/19/2007 5:32 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Durant is Dirk, isn't he? Can score from anywhere on the floor, defensive ability questionable, gets more rebounds than you think. Somebody check his iPod for Hasselhoff tunes.

 
At 3/19/2007 6:54 PM, Blogger Ethan said...

I applaud Sean for comparing a player to Dirk Nowitzki who isn't white.

 
At 3/19/2007 7:06 PM, Blogger Gladhands said...

Dirk is a 7-footer with one of the sweetest shooting strokes I've ever seen. Durant, not so much.

I might be able to overlook Durant's seeming lack of intensity if he had T-Mac's freakish athleticism to go along with it. I think we're forgetting the kind of player that Prince was. He didn't put op Durant's numbers on a night-to-night basis because he played in a system that didn't demand that from him. He was an absolute beast in the tournaments, though. In all my years of watching college hoops Prince is the most similar to Durant.

 
At 3/19/2007 7:55 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

I second the Dirk Analogy to a degree - it's true that Durant does not have the superfreaky explosiveness of your T-Macs. But then, neither does Melo, really. (And remember, he's still in college, so hasn't had access to the good drugs, er, training methods yet...) Anyone who questions Durants shooting stroke while lionizing Tayshaun (a nice enough player) is either an idiot or a Kentucky shill. But then I repeat myself.

But to regress to the Dirk/KD comparison, it's the combination of balance, length/size, and control that makes him so unstoppable. He rarely blows by (though this may be somewhat because of the doubling and tripling he gets at UT or the fact that his PG is awful at getting him the ball in the right spots), but gets his guy off balance, and scores. Of course, when the time comes, he's still plenty explosive (see the spinning dunk vs. Kansas in the Big 12 title game)

Though to me, the evolutionary Reggie Lewis comparison might be best (not just because Reggie was my favorite player back in the day), but the combination of shooting touch, surprising rebounding/shot blocking (Lewis was the best shotblocking guard in the NBA in the early 90s) and what I've previously described as the sort of "quarter-beat off-rhythm" timing of their offensive games.

 
At 3/19/2007 10:25 PM, Blogger Robber Baron said...

To rip-off Shaq,

Oden = Sonny
Durant = Michael
Mayo = Fredo

At first I wrote a bunch of paragraphs elaborating on it, but I decided it works pretty well on it's own. It is obviously not perfect, but you get the idea. Although I can't help but note this crazycool extended-metaphor

...Mayo is going to the college version of Vegas(USC).

 
At 3/19/2007 10:46 PM, Blogger max said...

Look at Durant defensively early in the year and look at him now--there's already been a marked improvement. At the beginning of the year, it was posited that he was worse than adam morrison. He took this criticism to heart, and stepped his defensive game up. Sure, he's not a stopper (yet), but he's not a liability, either.

Durant's 18, which is why I think the idea that he should have exponentially more mental toughness than a high-schooler or your run of the mill college freshman.

Also, if he was on a team with a Coach that understood basketball X's and O's, say...I don't know, Michigan State--he'd be the featured player, touching the ball on every possession.

I think in the first half of the USC game he touched the ball on 14 of 36 possessions or something like that. That's crazy. Absolutely crazy, especially when the other option is DJ "I Overdribble" Augustin.

 
At 3/19/2007 11:53 PM, Blogger Brother Afrocan said...

Watching Durant lose to USC was a showcase of how fucked the college game is. Mediocre coaching coupled with mediocre teammates (Abrams escapes my wrath with a pretty decent showing) reduced KD to non-factor. Eventually in an effort to try and will his team back, Durant resorted to hoisting contested NBA three's as USC's swarming defense made it impossible to get entry passes in to KD.

The loss also made realize that either Melo is simply the shit for what he pulled off in his freshman year. Either Melo is devastating at creating his shot and going 1-on-5 or he had a really good team in place at Syracuse.

 
At 3/20/2007 1:19 AM, Anonymous D-Wil said...

youshoottoo... just to help you think about Floyd - way do you think Mike Garrett hired Floyd? Because he's the NCAA hoops equivalent of Pete Carroll.... marinate on that for awhile and we'll talk at next year's Regional Finals.

As far as KD goes, at present, the young man is far too thin physically for the rigors of the League. Check out a vid of KG in his senior year in H.S. He's MUCH better built than KD. And though Tay-Tay is thin, he's Reggie Miller thin, not Olsen Twins thin; i.e. wiry strong instead of stick figure. Look at how Taj Gibson treated KD? You think that body's ready?

Durant also needs to work much more on his handles - he needs a little "low smooth" with his dribble. And there's also the question of his first step with the dribble - he's got a great jab step, but I've never seen it accompanied with a dribble - or a shoulder shake-dribble.

So, young cat haw work to do. One more year in college will help if he mom is cool enough financially...

Wasn't UT in the Final Four just a few years ago? Rick Barnes is no ex-NBA head coach come back to college to dominate like some cough, Tim, cough cough Floy - cough coaches. But Barnes isn't as brutal as y'all think - he's a 7 out of 10 in the NCAA ranks.

Finally, lay off Augustin.... if 'Melo put up with J-Mac and his constant heat checks (and I like J-Mac to this day), KD can deal with D.J. Plus (and sadly, I might add) how many PGs today come into college with a true understanding of where to get a post man the ball? Ain't no Kenny Anderson, or Greg Anthony, or Bobby Hurley freshmen today. And most young cats in H.S. are told by their lame coaches to use their physical gifts and create first if the play begins to break down, instead of reworking the play and even thinking inside-out (kinda like black QBs are taught in H.S. and college)....

 
At 3/20/2007 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That photo of the chick passed out on the beer pong table is fucking priceless. Awesome find.

- The Big Lead (too lazy to register)

 
At 3/20/2007 9:16 AM, Anonymous amphibian said...

Melo had a decent team around him - McNamara had good range, Warrick was a legit option (and is in the NBA today) and a bunch of solid glue/role players.

Does Texas have any other NBA ready players on their roster?

 
At 3/20/2007 10:57 AM, Blogger Brother Afrocan said...

Enough with the bullshit about Durant needing an extra year of college. What KD needs is 30-40 minutes a night under the tutelage of Paul Pierce. He needs to catch vicious elbows when he battles for rebounds with Mutombo. Get bitch-slapped by Kobe's savage follow through. Learn how to play man-to-man defense by guarding a genuine triple threat to shoot/drive/pass on the perimeter like T-Mac or Kobe. He needs to be embarrassingly posterized by Dwight Howard or Amare.

What Durant DOES NOT need is another year of slapping 37pts 23rbs on hapless Texas Tech teams.

Anybody who thinks a year of developing in college is better than a year of developing in the big league is hopelessly myopic and brainwashed by the 'hardwork, teamwork and play the right way' propaganda sprouted by NCAA fanatics and snake oil salesmen like Coach K.

The only situation in which I would advocate an extra year in college over going to the league is to boost ones draft stock- which could mean the difference of a couple million dollars. Obviously Durant does not need to boost his draft stock. In fact at this point he can only go down.

 
At 3/20/2007 11:20 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i can see the "oden needs another year" making sense, since if anything dude needs to figure out how to throw his weight around a little more (thanks mjd). he's supposed to be a dominant center, so where are the 30/20 lines?

durant, on the other hand, is a skill player, one who can absolutely destroy the college level. yeah, he'll grow if he stays another year, but that's not because of college play, it's because of hormones. worst case scenario, he practices with grown men, and has the same kind of first year that 18 year-olds used to have pre-lebron.

durant has fundamentals galore, so it's not like he needs more tutelage. as some people ave pointed out, he's shown a willingness to address his weaknesses almost as soon as they're out of the collective mouth (defense, handle, post-ish game).

fine, he might not be unstoppable for both halves in every game, but as many on here have said, that could be coach/augustine-driven.

if durant doesn't make the jump, it's because he's not emotionally ready for it. this here has a few interesting details about durant. . .for someone who has been basically groomed for athletic greatness, he seems kind of normal.

 
At 3/20/2007 11:52 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

d-wil, i agree barnes is a 7/10 for a college coach, but that basically means he sucks. there are a lot of bad college coaches out there. melo had a lot more help than durant, and boheim is a much better coach than barnes.

ty lawson is a freshman point who can get the ball in the post. he's adjusted and adapted so well this season that i sincerely believe that over the past month, he's been the best point guard in college basketball.

 
At 3/20/2007 12:44 PM, Anonymous D-Wil said...

bro afro-
ummm, nice attempt at being the incendiary "Mr. I know." My point is that Durant cannot, at present, be a 35 minutes player in the NBA - not physically and probably not mentally (I didn't want to pump my own spot, but I touched on that in a post previous to this one - and (Shoals) there's an LA Times article I quote from that in which the author talks about Durant's "emotional youth," if you will).....

As far as improvement through college or the pros goes, it really depends on whether or no a person can stand the rigors - mental, which always manifest themselves physically - of the NBA. Even with his work ethic, Durant's not there. Again, pointing to the Times article, this is the first season he's actually perceived the fruits of his "young boy" labor as a young man.

I enjoy Durant's game and his burgeoning leadership qualities. But I'm also looking at this with a sober eye. If he does turn pro this season he's forfeited being a leader - not even Bron Bron would take on that responsibility from vets his rookie year and Durant is no LBJ, in any way - and will have to subvert his game for at least a year as a result.

One more season in college allows him to grow as a baller (the points I made about nuanced enhancements to his game, I believe, are valid) and as a person. It's nice to be able to attend classes work on hoops and eat "Now Or Laters" all day (which KD has a proclivity to do).

Also Durant and the best atmosphere for his development is a separate issue from a person's feelings about the NCAA.

I've been on the athlete's end of NCAA investigators attempts at "grilling the perp," so I know the organization from that side. I also know it from its business - albeit non-profit - side. I've written about it before and will continue to in the future.... And I never praised the NC2A - best you separate opinion from fact.

---------------

Recluse - Yeah yeah Lawson. He is tight. Maybe one of three in the country. Dude from Butler can get the ball to the post, too. But where that used to be mandatory for entry into a big-time program - hell, any program; shit was required learning - is now a near lost art for H.S. PGs. Sad, man.

 
At 3/20/2007 1:28 PM, Blogger Brother Afrocan said...

D-Wil I concede a valid point you bring up- about the need to experience leadership. It makes sense to look at it that way, jumping to the league right now would reduce him from team leader to rank and file team member whether it is on the Grizz, Celts or any other lottery bound team. I think only the Bobcats lack a well-defined hierarchical structure with a true alpha-dog, though you can argue Okafor sort of fits the bill.

Interesting way to look at it- the question now would be how much value does leadership experience provide? And how difficult is it to learn it on the job in the NBA.

That said I will not back away from my 'incendiary Mr. I know' standpoint. I still consider the superior talent and athleticism in the league as a better way to develop a players physical abilities and skill set. I strongly feel that a 2-year vet at the end of the bench of the last place NBA team would dominate at the college level based on what he has picked up during his pro-stint.

 
At 3/20/2007 1:37 PM, Blogger Brother Afrocan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3/20/2007 1:39 PM, Blogger Brother Afrocan said...

To add to my point about superior competition. One can also say there are superior educators at the NBA level. KD can get exposed to a plethora of strength coaches, shooting coaches, passing coaches, dribbling coaches, agility coaches, hell even diet coaches. And he would be able to receive their full-time attention with no fake classes to eat into his schedule.

However one can argue over whether he has the mental maturity to turn basketball into a full-time 50-80 hour a week job?

 
At 3/20/2007 2:21 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

I'm stunned that anyone would seriously suggest that Durant go back to school for another year. All he'd be doing is pushing back the date when he can get his max contract, which is his obvious birthright.

If he's not ready next year, can't play 35 minutes, so what? he'll be ready the next year or the year after. one year closer to getting the big money. If people convince him to go back somehow, which I sincerely doubt, it'll be criminal. Barnes should file his paperwork himself.

 
At 3/20/2007 11:34 PM, Blogger max said...

There are a couple of huge differences between DJ Augustin and Gerry McNamara that can't be overlooked. First, G-Mac's heat checks came from the fact that at times he was truly unguardable from long range, to wit that they wouldn't have won the national championship without him in a very tangible way. (6 three pointers in the first half of the title game STAND UP!) Secondly, G-Mac understood the importance of getting his star involved with consistent touches, whereas I'm not even sure if DJ Augustin understands that he's not the star of the team. I can't think of a texas game where DJ Augustin didn't have a clear pass to Durant with one man on him and instead choose to drive into traffic and lost the ball, or at least some situation that had me yelling "PASS IT TO KD!" at the TV.

Because someone asked, Melo had G-Mac, another future nba-er (warrick), a glue guy senior (Kueth Duany), a good on ball defending center (forth) and an indomitable shot blocked (McNeil). They also had a much better coach (if Barnes is a 7 out of 10 then Boeheim is a 20 out of 10).

And, on that subject, D-Will why is it Tim Floyd's fault that he outcoached Rick Barnes? I feel liked "shamed" might be a better word than outcoached there. By all accounts Barnes is a great recruiting coach / teacher (the evidence is there for that), and not so great an X's and O's guy.

And Bro-Afro, I hate to tell it to you, but Texas' athletic budget is around 86.3 Million dollars. One could assume that Texas isn't lacking for coaches.

That said, I think KD would be better served staying in school a year simply to let his body mature. Who knows if he won't naturally just put on about 20 pounds of "boys growing into men" muscle. If that's the difference between having a livingston-esque injury and not, it's a no-brainer.

I think I read somewhere that he grew 3 inches during his Senior year of HS, so at the moment he could be extra skinny, and needing to naturally re-grow the muscle that stretched out in growing.

 
At 3/21/2007 12:33 AM, Anonymous D-Wil said...

To anyone who believes KD should leave, click on my name and check out the latest post on Durant - it's an update from a post yesterday... it will really help peeps understand that the young man needs another year of growin' up before hittin' the bricks.....

and max- it's not Floyd's fault. The, "Tim cough...." was meant to let peeps know what's up. I love the fact that Garrett found the Carroll equivalent!.... it's a friggin' masterstroke that he pulled this off with both programs.

 
At 3/21/2007 1:24 AM, Blogger max said...

Ah, my bad, I read that as hating on Tim Floyd. By all accounts he's a brilliant basketball mind and also a really nice dude, just got caught coaching two of the worst rosters in the history of the world. Chicago after Jordan and NO before Paul...

also, as a point of disclosure, i should mention that syracuse winning the national title in 03 was the greatest moment of my young life (everyone in my family 'cept for me went to syracuse so its in my blood), so I'm biased in that analysis above.

 
At 3/21/2007 3:31 AM, Blogger Brother Afrocan said...

Max- my bad, thanks for clearing up my misguided notion than an NBA team can offer better coaching talent and a greater degree of individual attention to players than is available at the University of Texas. Also my

And for the record, as a basketball fan I would love for BOTH Kevin Durant and Greg to stay an extra year in college. The potential of a wiser/stronger Durant, an ambidextrous/more polished Oden and the explosive/sweet-shooting OJ Mayo on a loaded USC squad would be a college ball wet-dream. Not since 1996 when AI, Steph and Ray Allen were lighting it up have we had 3 legit worth-tanking-the-season-for franchise players in the college game at the same time.

 
At 3/21/2007 1:11 PM, Blogger max said...

I didn't mean that, simply that Texas is probably providing Kevin Durant with any coach he could possibly need. So MORE COACHES probably won't be a driving reason he'll stay or go. Not to mention that college puts a premium on teaching basketball and developing talent, whereas the NBA puts a premium on winning basketball games.

 
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