Dirk Nowitzki made his NBA debut in 1998. Kevin Durant was 10.
Nowitzki was an established NBA All-Star by 2001. Durant was 13.
“Sorry, I'm making Dirk seem a little bit old,” Durant joked. “But that's when I started really focusing on Dirk and when he became one of my favorite players ever to play this game.”
But it wasn't just an admiration Durant developed for the Mavericks star. It was a partial blueprint for his eventual game, with both sharing rare height and shooting ability.
The most obvious thing KD took: Dirk's patented one-legged fadeaway.
It's a move Nowitzki has long perfected, while Durant's remains a constant work in progress.
“It was rougher than I thought it was going to be (early on),” Durant said. “Took me some time to figure it out, but I think I'm doing all right with it.”
At this point, with such a diverse offensive toolbox, it's a move Durant doesn't typically use more than once every game.
But it's clearly one of his favorites.
“Just the space it gives you and how it looks,” Durant said. “It just frees you up when you're kinda pressured. You don't think you have a shot, then you just step back and knock it down.”
CARLISLE STILL VIEWS THE THUNDER AS A CONTENDER
Across the NBA, mixed feelings remain regarding the Thunder's title chances this season.
But Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he still views the Thunder as dangerous a team as ever, in both the present and future.
“This team is in it for the long haul,” Carlisle said. “There's no doubt about it.”
Particularly, Carlisle pointed to OKC's consistent ability to groom young talent.
“They got Westbrook back now, and there's no doubt he'll regain his form quickly,” he said. “Their challenge is going to be to keep integrating younger guys, which they've done a great job with (Reggie) Jackson and now (Jeremy) Lamb is doing great things.”
DURANT BRUSHES OFF PERCEIVED SLIGHT FROM KEVIN MARTIN
Since his departure from Oklahoma City this summer, Kevin Martin has had nothing but great things to say about the Thunder organization.
But this past Monday, when speaking about his initial impressions of the Timberwolves, Martin's gushing was viewed by some as a surprising slight toward OKC and its biggest superstar.
“This is such a fun team to play on,” Martin said of Minnesota. ”Nobody is trying to lead the league in scoring.”
Out of context, it seemed like a jab at Durant, Martin's former teammate who has won the scoring title three out of the past four years. And in context, it still might have been.
But since the quick quip lit up the digital Interwebs, Martin has done his best to deny any cryptic meaning, and Durant has done his best to downplay the situation.
Here's Martin to ESPN's Marc Stein: ”It's a case of people making something out of nothing. KD is my guy, and we've already talked, so he knows for sure that it wasn't a shot at him. Way too much respect for him.”
Here's Durant at shootaround on Wednesday: “Nah. I know what type of guy K-Mart is. He's far from one of those type of guys who wants that shine, too. He's not that type of guy. So I didn't really think too much about it. I enjoyed playing with K-Mart.”
Consider the situation essentially squashed.
CARTER EJECTED FOR ELBOW ON ADAMS
In the middle of the third quarter, after an offensive rebound in traffic, Thunder center Steven Adams hit Mavs forward Vince Carter with an inadvertent elbow as he was passing it back out.
The refs didn't notice, but Carter clearly did.
Moments after, the veteran barreled into the lane and nailed Adams with a blatant retaliation elbow right across the face.
After review, Carter was ejected for a flagrant, while Adams was given a technical.