Kevin Durant was, by his own standards, simply being himself in leading the Nets to their 10th victory in 14 games to start their 2021-22 campaign the other day. In other words, he was nothing short of outstanding, logging 33, eight, and four en route to posting a whopping plus-30 net rating in his 34 minutes on the court against the hapless Thunder. That he hit nine of 17 shots within the flow of the match served only to underscore his otherworldly skill set. Even so, it bears noting that his stat line, for all its pluses, pales in comparison to his season norms; he’s leading the league in scoring at a shade under 30 per outing on ridiculous 58-42-84 shooting splits.
Considering Durant’s unmatched efficiency, it’s no wonder the Nets have survived both the absence of fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving and the inconsistent play of former Most Valuable Player awardee James Harden. And he’s doing it with a sore right shoulder that he said “didn’t get in the way too much” versus the Thunder — certainly an understatement. Not that he’s immune to injury; far from it, as Warriors fans still bitter about how the 2019 Playoffs ended for their threepeat-seeking favorites know only too well. On the other hand, his remarkable recovery from the Achilles tear that compelled him to then sit out an entire year underscores his strength and resolve.
Indeed, Durant is no “cupcake,” as those deriding him for one reason or another claim. And, his understated countenance notwithstanding, there can be no relegating him to the background. He was by and large the best player of the Thunder in the eight seasons he toiled with the mercurial Russell Westbrook, and of the Warriors in the next three alongside the amiable Stephen Curry. That said, it’s evident to all and sundry that he now has peace of mind — not coincidentally because it’s also evident to all and sundry that he’s first in the pecking order.
Today, the Nets will be hosting the league-leading Warriors, and there’s no doubt that Durant will be making nice with Curry — off the court, that is. On it, he will most definitely relish playing the silent assassin, if for no other reason than because he hates to lose. He’s not one to give up on anything, as his seemingly inane back and forth with unknown characters on Twitter show. And, yes, he will want to prove that he’s the best of the best. Under the circumstances, he’s not one to bet against, bum shoulder or no.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.