A Simple Counter For Stephen Jackson Crowding Kevin Durant
SAN ANTONIO — Lost in the Scott Brooks-Serge Ibaka storyline from Game 1 is an old problem the Oklahoma City Thunder saw rear its ugly head Sunday night and lead to offensive struggles that were just as significant as the defensive breakdowns.
Kevin Durant couldn’t get open.
Spurs guard Stephen Jackson covered Durant like a blanket, crowding him with pesky physical play that prevented clean catches from point guard Russell Westbrook. As Durant struggled to squirt free, precious seconds continued to tick off the shot clock. By the time Durant finally received passes, he had little time to get a high-percentage shot, the Thunder’s offense had completely bogged down and OKC had become extremely defensible.
This is nothing new, of course. Every defender from Tony Allen to Shane Battier to Ron Artest has employed this method of defense against Durant. Jackson just joined the list.
“People have been crowding me and pushing me off my spot for five years now,” Durant said. “So it’s no different. Stephen Jackson is physical and stronger than me, of course. But I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to keep going at these people, man. I’m not going to quit.”
Right spirit. Wrong idea.
Durant and the Thunder should quit force-feeding Durant. Every halfcourt set that starts with Durant trying to seal Jackson is a wasted one.
As everyone knows, and Durant has admitted, Jackson is stronger. He’s pushing Durant farther away from his preferred starting point and forcing the Thunder’s star to initiate offense from much farther out. Fortunately for the Thunder in Game 1, Durant was able to use Jackson’s strength against him on a handful of trips. Durant attempted six fourth-quarter free throws, two of them stemming from Durant simply exploiting Jackson’s ultra-aggressiveness with the rip move. But it’s clear that before Durant catches the ball, the refs aren’t going to blow the whistle on all the pushing and pulling, grabbing and grappling. So Durant and the Thunder must adjust, and I’ve got a simple yet potentially effective idea for Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Let Durant bring the ball up the court.
It’s the best way for Durant to initiate the offense without Jackson poking and prodding.
“We’ve done that in the past,” Brooks said. “We’ve talked about it. He did it a few times last game. He did it, actually, three or four plays in a row. It’s something that we will look at. But we have to make sure that we get guys off of him there’s no question. Kevin has to do a better job of setting himself up, and we have to set better screens. We can’t let a guy hang on him and get away with it. He’s a talented player but we need to free him up.”The only downside to putting the ball in Durant’s hands from the start is the potential for fatigue. Turning KD into essentially the point guard could wear him out. But that’s only if the Spurs apply full-court pressure. In that case, Jackson risks running out of gas, too.
Durant even said he sees the advantage in this strategy and provided more detail on how it could help.
“I think I can beat him off the dribble,” Durant said of Jackson. “They got a great defensive team, but I think I can make the right passes. I can get better, but I’ve been making the right passes. But it’s all whatever coach wants me to do. If he wants me to bring it up, I did that a few times last game. If he wants me to run around screens, or sit in the post, or space the floor I’ll do that too.”
Durant is dangerous enough to be deadly in any of those spots. So why waste time fooling around with the one in which he’s clearly not?
“It’s not just that,” Durant said. “We got to get into our offense quicker. We got to race the ball up. We’re walking across the halfcourt line right at 16 and we’re calling the play at 14. By the time I tried to get open and get the ball, we’re at eight, seven. That just means I got to run faster to my spot. The bigs got to run faster and the point guard’s got to run faster up the court to give us some more time.”
Some suggest Durant post up. How? Again, Jackson has the clear strength advantage. If Durant can’t catch it at the elbow, how’s he going to seal Jackson on the block? Then there is the matter of the Spurs’ team defense, which Durant knows is lurking.
“It’s easier said than done,” Durant said. “They’re not going to just let me run down in the post and sit there. No team is going to let you do that. Of course, people from the outside looking in can easily say just run to the post. But that’s exactly where I want to get the ball. But I know where the double team is coming from. I never play one-on-one basketball, in the playoffs or since I’ve been in the league. Nobody is going to just let me sit there and do what I want to do so I’ve got to figure out where to catch it and how I can make a quick move and where I can see my teammates to pass the ball. My coaches do a great job of showing me the film, and I think that me as a player that learns quickly, I can adjust.
VIDEOS FROM NBA TV
Buy Tickets View all
Message Sent Successfully
Be Sure to Check Out Our Top Headlines
- 36901Oklahoma weather: Crews work to clear storm damage in Oklahoma City as the state braces for severe weather Sunday.
- 36295Oklahoma tornadoes: 'It took it all'
- 32626Oklahoma Severe Storm Updates
- 8549Wild hogs continue to be a growing menace across Oklahoma
- 5487OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti won't amnesty Kendrick Perkins
- 4132Oklahoma City Thunder: What could Serge Ibaka learn from Hakeem Olajuwon?
- 4021Oklahoma State football: Limiting Wes Lunt's transfer options makes Mike Gundy look bad
- 3510College football: Coaches, athletes weigh in on NCAA's suspended recruiting proposals
- 3369George Nigh has long been 'Four' Oklahoma
- 3261Brittney Griner: Kim Mulkey said keep quiet on sexuality
Back to share with a friend form.
Add More Recipients