Kevin Durant turned 27 in September. If the traditional NBA superstar’s career were plotted along a graph with efficiency and NBA titles as the y-axis and time as the x-axis, this would be the beginning of KD’s highest peak — hopefully for him, it would be a long plateau before an ever-so-slight descent. Look at when MJ and LeBron first won their titles: it becomes clear — if history is a precedent — this is the year Durant makes the leap. Steph was a year early, 26, after winning the chip last season.
But because Durant is coming off the most significant injury of his career, the media is justifiably wondering about his health. Durant’s a little pissed about all the talk of playing time and whether it was smart for him to play 54 minutes in OKC’s double-overtime win against the Magic the Friday before Halloween. Head coach Billy Donovan is likewise not interested in such discussions. Via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
“There’s no ‘OK, after tonight we’re gonna rest him,’” Donovan said. “Or a ‘Hey, listen, we’re gonna get through this mid-week and then rest him on the back end.’ Those guys are gonna play and they want to play. They are competitors.”
When presented with the thought, Durant scoffed, as he’s done with any health-related question the past month.
“I’m really tired of y’all talking to me like I’m a 19-year vet,” Durant said. “I was out a year. Not even a whole year. I’m alright. I can play those minutes. It’s not like I’m struggling the next day. I want to play every minute. But I can’t do that. I feel great enough to play as much as coach wants me to play. I’m not 39 years old.”
On the one hand, yes, Durant is just 27 and in the prime of his career and at a point physically where his body can, indeed, probably rejuvenate itself faster than a gimpy 19-year-vet. We’re also sure he’s not making any specific allusions to any current 20-year vets struggling to return from catastrophic injuries.
But Durant is failing to consider the full gravity of his current situation. Injuries are a legitimate concern for the Thunder. They haven’t embarked on a postseason run at full health since 2012, and the results speak for themselves. Plus, in the loaded Western Conference, any sort of setback that causes him to miss games could cost Oklahoma City prime playoff positioning.
And any scenario that threatens the Thunder’s championship run this season could be the nail in the coffin with Durant’s impending free agency looming over everything. So maybe Durant doesn’t necessarily need a strict minutes management plan for the season, but it would behoove Donovan to exercise some common sense along the way.