Free Darko with more on Durant: “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: there’s a modesty and restraint to Durant that sets him apart from other superstars. Yet there’s simply no way to look on Durant mid-game and not see something vicious, even tormented, in his eyes. Sometimes, Tim Duncan gets riled in the playoffs; otherwise, he glides along the pathways to victory with a detachment often mistaken for disinterest. That in no way describes what it’s like to watch Kevin Durant play. He possesses all the swagger of his peers, it’s just been sublimated, or shoved deep down inside so it’s even more combustible. Durant isn’t a throwback to some genteel sporting past. But, it should be noted, that past never really existed the way people want it to today.”
Jack McCallum of SI with a pretty outstanding column on Team USA: “There is much roster confusion, too. All over Turkey I’ve been asked, “Where is Kobe Bryant?” for it is Black Mamba’s likeness that is plastered on the billboards advertising the tournament. In the window of the Nike store on Istiklal, one of Istanbul’s main commercial thoroughfares, are displayed two U.S. jerseys: Bryant’s No. 10 and LeBron James’ No. 6. An English-language newspaper in Istanbul did accurately point to the real U.S. star with a Monday headline that read “Durant and Friends Lead U.S. Into Angola Test,” but ran a photo of Chauncey Billups instead of Durant.”
Darnell Mayberry on the expectations the Thunder will bring back from Turkey: “Whenever Kevin Durant manufactured a fall-away jumper or a fast-break dunk, the fawning would begin. ESPN color commentator Fran Fraschilla invariably insisted Durant, 21, is so immensely talented that he would be among the top two players picked, perhaps even the top overall selection, in any hypothetical world basketball draft. As if the Thunder hasn’t harvested enough hype following a stirring 50-win season that ended with a rack of awards and a riveting playoff series, OKC must now bear the burden of possessing a player some are openly considering the best in the world. A part of it doesn’t compute considering the Thunder won just 23 games in 2008-09. But there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the high praise.”
Fran Blinebury of NBA.com on players that need to straighten up: “There are rookies like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant who make the jump from the college ranks to the NBA look as easy hopping over a puddle. They change uniforms and location, but keep their poise and confidence. They step into the glare of a bigger spotlight, but always find a way to outshine everyone else on the floor. For such players, there is no such thing as a transition period. However, there are others who find the adjustment more challenging. It takes them time to learn systems and teammates, to find where they fit in and how to contribute. But after two or three seasons to get their feet wet, it is definitely time to jump into the pool and make a bigger splash.”
John Rohde updating on Nenad Krstic: “Krstic played a key role in Serbia (5-1) surviving the first round of elimination play, scoring a team-high 16 points in a last-second 73-72 victory over rival Croatia on Saturday. Serbia is 3-0 with Krstic in the lineup and next plays defending FIBA champion Spain (4-2) on Wednesday in a quarterfinal contest.”
Nick Collison, television critic: “Watching the last Mad Men. If there was an Emmy for “Most Realistic Sounding Puking in a Drama” Don Draper would win in a landslide.”
Searching for a nickname for Russell Westbrook using “zero.” I’ve always been partial to “Jet Zero” on that one.