Ever since Russell Westbrook started experiencing swelling and discomfort in that surgically repaired right knee, the Thunder have floundered in his absence following a third surgery. With Russ out until after the All-Star break, the Thunder’s leader, Kevin Durant, is expected to pick up the slack left by the absence of his All-NBA teammate. Except, in an about-face from most superstars in his place, KD is worried he’s shooting the ball too much.
Before Russ had his third surgery â€” second arthoroscopic â€” on his right knee, the Thunder were 23-5. Since he went down, they’ve been a mediocre 5-4, including losses to the lowly Nets at home and the Jazz on the road. But Durant has been fantastic, averaging 34.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 37.3 minutes per game. He’s still shooting north of 48 percent, but his three-point shooting has fallen with an untick in attempts; he was averaging 4.3 attempts beyond the arc before Russ went down, connecting on better than 43 percent, and 6.9 attempts and 33.9 percent after the Westbrook surgery.
But while Durant has continued to play excellent despite the troubles from deep, some of his teammates â€” specifically Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher, have all shot miserably (none greater than Lamb’s 41.8 percent). Still, Durant holds himself responsible.
Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman spoke with Durant and coach Scott Brooks about where Durant sees himself in relation to his teammates during the Westbrook-less stretch:
“I’m not doing enough to help them,” Durant said of his teammates. “I’m shooting too much. I’m shooting too many 3s. I’m not helping them out at all. So it’s not on them.
“The first few games without Russell, we did a great job moving the ball,” Durant said. “I think now I’m just flat out shooting too much. I have to find a way to get my teammates easier shots. I’ve been thinking these last few games in order for us to get it going I have to do it all offensively. But, nah, we have to do it together. It’s a great learning experience for me. It’s the first time I’ve really been in that type of position. But I just have to get everybody involved. I may have to pass up a few to find a better shot.
“I just can’t keep thinking about myself,” Durant said. “It’s messing up the rhythm. So I got to figure out how I can help them out. It’s not about them helping me. It’s about me helping them.”
In case you didn’t already know it, but that’s the type of leadership you want from your top dog. Rather than blame his poor shooting teammates for the 5-4 mini-slide after Russ went down, KD identified his increased three-point shooting as the primary catalyst for a stagnant offense, and he’s trying to figure out what he can do to improve his teammates’ looks.
That’s a leader, and even if the recent tumble in the Western Conference playoff seedings might give OKC fans pause, they’ve got to be happy about those words from their leader. That’s what the best player on the team is supposed to do: make things better for his teammates. KD knows what’s up.
What do you think of KD’s comments?
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