It’s not too many ballers who could drop 30 points after entering a game late and fresh off the street, but Kevin Durant is one of the privileged few. The Oklahoma City small forward arrived about five minutes into the evening’s twilight game between his Awash squad and Team H.O.B.O. decked in a Raiders cap and a white tee, but it didn’t take long for him to get suited and thrown into the action.
Durant began his second appearance at Washington, D.C.’s Goodman Summer League on Wednesday much like his debut on Sunday; launching a three pointer on his first attempt just to check the heat on his jumper.
After a flailing airball and a few one-on-one dribble duels with Team H.O.B.O. and local standout Omar Weaver, the man nicknamed KD was finally warmed up and riding with the flow of the game. After Weaver swished a three in Durant’s face, the competitive 21-year-old flashed a confident smirk as he jogged back down the court ready to attack on the next play. Facing up against Weaver on the left side of the basket, KD darted right before swinging the ball back left and finishing over Weaver with a one-handed dunk that left a sparse crowd shaking their heads in disbelief.
If you’ve never seen a 6-foot-10 NBA forward cross someone over and flush, it’s a pretty amazing sight to see, especially live in person. Durant made it his duty to show off his athleticism on the night; angling his body for tip dunks and gliding through traffic for no look passes and fadeaway jumpers.
“He loves it here inside the gates and the gates loves him right back,” announcer Miles Rawls gushed when praising the NBA’s scoring champion. But it was Weaver who finished as the night’s high-point man, posting 37 points and showcasing a game that even a future NBA MVP had to appreciate. Weaver’s performance helped his H.O.B.O. team narrow a 15-point second half deficit to one before KD got serious again.
Durant drew a pair of and ones on a couple of effortless layups and dished off to open cutters once the defense started to double and triple down on him. Despite the late arrival, Durant still finished with 30 points and revived his team just in time for them to finish with the win against a hard-charging H.O.B.O team.
It’s something about a NBA All-Star hooping it up with local regulars that always launches a buzz into the air at the Goodman but it’s becoming a regular scene for attendees these days. Rawls warned the crowd to enjoy Durant’s early summer presence while they can since the budding superstar will be leaving in August to partake in Team USA’s training camp for the 2010 World Championships.
“Enjoy him while you can because he’s gone come August,” Rawls cautioned. “Got some things to take care of overseas.”
Until August, Durant’s taking care of things at the Goodman League and showcasing an Olympic-style game that continues to impress. Even without a proper warmup.
Kevin Durant showed up for his Washington, D.C. Goodman League summer debut on Sunday with lots of people to please but little to prove. After all, the NBA’s reigning scoring champion did give spectators at Barry Farms something to remember last summer with a 62-point outburst.
Topping that feat would’ve been difficult for even the modest NBA 2K champion, let alone the NBA’s leading scorer. But fans didn’t withstand the sweltering heat and bypass the first half of Sunday night’s NBA Finals to see the extreme; they just came to show support for one of the best home-grown ballers in the league do his thing. And Durant answered their wishes.
His performance wasn’t 62-point-esque but Durant’s 35 points raised enough ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from a packed crowd to grade his Goodman League debut as a success. Playing alongside the Washington Wizards’ Andray Blatche, Durant and Blatche dazzled at times “inside the gates” for their 3rd Eye ball club. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward launched the first shot of the game; a three-pointer that grazed off the rim before executing a spin move on his next possession and finishing with a one-handed dunk. That would turn into an ongoing theme for much of the night for the 21-year-old nicknamed “KD.” While his normally reliable jumpshot wasn’t falling, KD was busy attacking the rim and finishing strong with two-handed and one-handed rim rattlers. Clapping his hands after explosive finishes and face-flexing to the crowd.
“KD is officially here at the big show,” announcer Miles Rawls bellowed whenever Durant would throw down one. Watching the 6-foot-10 scoring machine glide up and down the court with his smooth handle and crossovers galore made a few onlookers shake their heads in disbelief but if you’ve been watching Durant emerge as one of the NBA’s best players over the last three seasons then the display came as no surprise.
Durant wasn’t the only NBA specimen impressing. Much like his Wizards’ responsibilities, Blatche did a little bit of everything on Sunday. Rebounding, passing and scoring, Blatche recording a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on his own courtesy of some slick crossovers and a few athletic finishes. But while NBAers Blatche and Durant were starring, it was Team Cricket’s pair of And 1 superstars Hugh “Baby Shaq” Jones and Lonnie “Prime Objective” Harrell that stole the show. Following along the lines of his And 1 exploits, “Baby Shaq” made play after play during the evening’s twilight game, scoring at will and swishing the final shot in overtime that sent Durant and his 3rd Eye team home losers on the night.
Despite the defeat, Durant’s presence alone made winners out of the neighborhood kids who arrived by the masses to come see him. With their fingers pointed in amazement and juice stains decorating their shirts, star-struck youngsters applauded Durant’s every move and grinned in excitement with his every dunk. Durant didn’t have to top 60 on the evening; he just had to show up. And for local D.C. residents on Sunday night, that’s all anybody could ask for.
Every offseason, sports writers around the globe are on the lookout for the next best thing. Last summer, roundball writers drooled over Oklahoma City’s potential. This summer, the focus should be in Newark. OK, so John Wall isn’t going to New Jersey, big deal! The Nets will still be an alluring destination team this summer thanks to Mikhail Prokhorov, the self-made Russian billionaire owner with cap room and money to blow. Prokhorov should also be aided by the team’s relocation plans for Brooklyn in 2012 and one of the best up and coming rosters in the league. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to come to Jersey?
Even though the Nets only won 12 games last season, their roster is stacked with young and attractive talent. A 7-foot center in Brook Lopez who’s already one of the best big men in the league at just 22-years-old. A prototypical sized, lighting quick and fast-twitch point guard in Devin Harris (who probably benefitted the most from Washington winning the lottery since many forget he was an All-Star in 2008). A trio of athletic wings in Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Throw in serviceable bigs Josh Boone and Yi Jianlian, who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds to close the month of April, and New Jersey’s roster is only a couple of spectacular pieces away from being dangerously nasty.
While Lopez and Harris get most of the pub, Williams may be the most intriguing member of that group. A rookie last year who didn’t start receiving consistent minutes until the last two months of the season when he averaged over 14 points, 5.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds a game in only 31.2 minutes of action. Consistent minutes and a year of seasoning could turn Williams into a certified player next year but the salivating doesn’t stop there.
Keep in mind this year’s third pick in the draft should net New Jersey one of Evan Turner, Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins. While many would argue for Turner if he’s available, consider that Williams is already giving the Nets what Turner would but he’s doing so with a few extra drops of athleticism (check his youtube). Besides, stacking up on athletic bigs is never a bad thing. Look no further than the Lakers and Celtics for an example of what two long and athletic front courters can do for a team’s roster. Pairing Cousins or Favors with Lopez would give New Jersey a pretty stout and athletic front wall rarely possessed by teams in the NBA.
And then there’s free agency, where a few extra dollars could land the marquee player this team needs to be a true contender. LeBron James anyone? Guys like Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer will likely wish to partner with James or Dwayne Wade (who’s also a free agent) somewhere where they could run the league but James is the linchpin here. Unlike Bosh, Stoudemire and Boozer, James doesn’t necessarily need to pair with a huge name to win and his a one-man band game is more than capable of leading a group of misfits (as he’s already done) deep in the playoffs. Not that the Nets roster is any slouch but if any of the freebies could come to New Jersey solo and successfully run a group of highly-skilled talents, it’s James.
If it’s not James then maybe Prokhorov should throw his dollars at Memphis restricted free agent Rudy Gay. The 6-foot-9, 23-year-old small forward is coming off averages of 19.6 points and six rebounds and adding him to an already capable squad could form Oklahoma City-like results in the East next year. Gay’s Baltimore ties might force him to consider relocating somewhere closer to home and the Grizzlies are going to let the market set a barometer for Gay but if Prokhorov throws some ridiculous figure out there, Memphis might likely decline to match.
Regardless of which free agents or if any signs with the Nets, with the third pick in the draft and a move to Brooklyn on the horizon, the Nets are clearly a team on the rise in the NBA.