When the NBA schedule came out nearly two months ago I wrote the Thunder’s scheudle is especially difficult the first two months, that if the Thunder could go 14-18 or 13-19 those first 32 games before the calendar flips to 2010, a young team might stay within sniffing distance of playoff teams much of the season.
Well, tonight we start to find out if a young team is up to that challenge. It’s Opening Night. Game 1 of that 32-game stretch is in the Ford Center, a game OKC should win.
The two most interesting items from shoot-around Wednesday morning, a few hours before tipoff, was coach Scott Brooks’ response to Kevin Durant possibly leading the league in scoring at some point during his career and Opening Night excitement.
Durant finished sixth in the league in scoring last seson. When asked if No. 35 could eventually win a scoring title, Brooks’ final answer was the most revealing.
“Kevin has an offensive game that’s pretty good at (age) 21. But he still needs to continue to learn the tricks and crafts of that position,” Brooks said. “And he has. He did a great job over the summer.”
In other words, Durant’s offensive game still has much room to grow as he gains more experience. That’s why many are predicting the former Texas star might someday win a scoring title.
One stat best sums up Durant’s scoring potential. LeBron James is the only player in NBA history to score more points than Durant before their 21st birthday.
Brooks’ initial response shifted focus to Durant’s desire to be recognized as a player who helps his team win on both ends of the court, not just scoring.
“There’s no doubt Kevin Durant is a special player,” Brooks said. “The thing I really admire about Kevin is he knows he’s good and he can score and score in a lot of different spots. But that’s not his focus. He wants to continue to develop and make winning basketball plays.
“He said it best last year. He had All-Star numbers but felt he didn’t deserve it because we didn’t win enough games, that you should be able to win games if you’re going to make the All-Star team. With Kevin he will develop and get better.”
In response to Opening Night, Brooks, as he often does, spoke about down-the-roster players since that best describes his scrappy career.
“It’s always a good time for a player,” Brooks said. “One, you made the team. Two, you get an opportunity to enjoy playing after all the hard work you put in through the summer (and see it) show up on the court.”