Durant Continues to Misfire as Sonics Lose AgainIn his second summer league game, Kevin Durant shot just 4-19 from the field as Seattle lost 87-74 to New York on Monday. He made all eight of his free throws to finish with a team-high 18 points while playing 34 of a possible 40 minutes. Those numbers mirror his production in his first game (18 points, 5-17 field goal shooting, 7-9 free throw shooting). Walt Frazier, Knicks legend and color commentator for MSG Network, made a couple interesting observations about Durant's play. One, when Durant is not putting the ball in the basket you don't even notice that he is on the court; in 64 minutes of play so far he has two rebounds, no assists, no steals and no blocked shots. Two, Durant lacks either the size or the confidence to play a true post up game; in one sequence he caught the ball with his back to the basket but immediately pivoted to face his defender. Frazier added that Durant will have to hit the weight room and add some strength, citing Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon as two examples of "stringbeans" who added bulk and strength as their careers progressed.
Two summer league games obviously do not write the whole book on Kevin Durant's game, but, for better or worse, they do comprise the first sentence or two, and there is some cause for concern--more so than in the case of Greg Oden, who improved in his second game but will likely miss the rest of the summer league to have his tonsils removed. Oden has been battling a sinus infection and the tonsils problem and those things undoubtedly contributed to his slow start; still, he is already blocking shots (six in two games) and shooting a good percentage from the field (9-15, .600). He just needs to adjust to NBA officiating (19 fouls in two games) and to get used to the size and speed of NBA post players. On the other hand, Durant has yet to excel--or even perform adequately--in any phase of the game. Perhaps his poor field goal shooting can be attributed to nerves but Frazier's comment about Durant being invisible when he is not scoring is a very telling observation. It is not unreasonable to wonder if Durant is going to be a one dimensional NBA player, a possibility that I mentioned right after Portland won the Draft Lottery.
It is fine to dismiss the problems Durant had with the 185 pound bench press if he is able to perform effectively on the court but so far he has not shown a willingness or inclination to do anything other than try to score. Rebounding is about toughness, anticipation and desire; the length and athleticism that enabled Durant to be a good college rebounder is not going to get the job done on the boards in the pros, where there are many players who are long and athletic. There is no reason to panic in Seattle but I think that there are some very legitimate reasons for concern, particularly in light of the fact that the Supersonics jettisoned veteran leaders Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Is Seattle placing a greater burden on Durant's shoulders this season than he is able to carry at this point?
posted by David Friedman @ 5:58 PM