As the icy door shuts on January, the greatest individual month of basketball we’ve ever seen from Kevin Durant, it seems difficult, for now, to mine this Thunder team for any kind of truthful narrative beyond just recognizing that Durant is seated upon the throne of all that is good and true in this world. I think some people have found religion watching him play.
His numbers for the month (again, probably — people can’t stop talking about Durant, for good reason, so I’m sure you’ve already seen these from Royce or someone else.) I only put them here so you don’t have to click elsewhere to find them.
35.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 55% FG, 47% 3FG, 89% FT, 36.6 PER
That’s basketball porn. Somewhere in Memphis John Hollinger’s sacrificing an already smoked pork shoulder to the basketball gods in honor of that line. LeBron’s waking up in a cold sweat with this image flickering behind his eyes. Van Gundy’s emailing Mike Breen every hour on the hour with a different link to a different Durant highlight. There’s no body to the email, just a subject line that reads: Are You Kidding Me? Breen watches, cries, lights a few more True Rose Yankee Candles, and goes back to keeping his vigil while he watches this. Earmuffs on that.
Over the course of the run Durant’s been on, it’s clear that he’s been enjoying himself. He’s said as much in interviews. That Hawks game at the end of January, when Durant hit the game winner with a second and a half left on DeMarre Carroll and the rest of the greater Atlanta area, there was no mean mugging after the shot. There was no camera stare, no posturing, no stand there while your teammates mob you, nodding your head to show the world that you’re too cool to be excited about being great at something. He ran back down the court, happy, let out a yell, and punched the air. He was excited. He was having fun.
That’s just a good time right there.
I don’t know what to say about Durant. It feels like it’s all been said. He’s become so good and been so dominant over the past month that you sort of have to live in a land of hyperboles when you talk about him — every time he hits a jump shot an angel gives him their wings or something. He’s different from other players. The guy’s dedicating a shoe to his Aunt Pearl who passed away fourteen years ago from lung cancer and proceeds from the shoes will go to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. I don’t know what to say about that other than that it’s awesome and a testament to the type of dude he is that they’d happen to be released after his greatest statistical month ever.
There are cynics out there, for sure, contrarians who enjoy arguing that will claim he’s not what the numbers and the experts say he is — he’s not good at shooting corner threes on the left side of the court! — but for all intents and purposes, we’re dealing with a player here that is about as likable as possible. Bill Murray playing with sneezing kittens or something.
He seems too good to be true. This whole run has. Not just his January, but the team’s as well. They were the first in the league to forty wins. They’re three games up on the Spurs and alone at the top of the West and they played the entire month without one of the five best players in the league. Very soon they get to add another man who is impossible to guard. That’s horrifying for the rest of the league.
If good NBA offenses are puzzles, then bringing Westbrook back to the Thunder now with the way Durant and the team have been playing is like giving someone a 2,000 piece puzzle to complete, removing all of the corner pieces, burying them in knee deep snow on a 100 acre ranch, and telling the defense that they have to find the corner pieces and finish the puzzle in 48 minutes or else you’ll cut off their heads.
January was fun. Durant made sure of that. Here’s looking forward to February and beyond.
Let’s just ride out to some Grant Long: He’s the gift. He is the gift.