Kevin Durant is really good at basketball.
Goes without saying, right?
Well, this season I'm not sure we can say it enough.
The Thunder superstar is playing at such a consistently high level right now that his brilliance seems a bit underappreciated.
Take, for example, his exit from Thursday night's 107-95 demolition of the Bulls. He'd scored 32 points. He'd done so on only 20 shots. But the reaction from the crowd at The Peake when he checked out of the game was one you'd expect for Perry Jones or Andre Roberson. There were enthusiastic cheers, but it was hardly the ovation that Durant's play deserved.
He's locked in. He's confident. He's playing the best basketball on the planet.
“My confidence level is always up, no matter if I'm shooting it well or not,” Durant said. “There's going to be games that are better than others, but I'm always confident in myself. I've been through those phases where I let a bad shooting night take over for a few weeks.”
Though the way he's playing right now, Durant doesn't have to worry about off nights.
Asked how often he'd seen dominance like this in his decade-plus in the NBA, Derek Fisher had a short list — Shaq and Kobe.
“But Kevin is so efficient,” Fisher said. “I think that's what separates him from a lot of guys that have played this game and that are playing it now is just his level of efficiency while being dominant.”
Thursday was the 13th time this season that Durant has scored 30 points in a game. That leads the league — and it's not even close. Carmelo Anthony ranks next with seven games of 30 or more. But while Durant's point total was impressive, the efficiency was even more eye popping. He was 13 of 20 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. That pushes his percentage from 3-point range this month to 55 percent.
Fifty-five percent from three.
And you're talking about a guy who takes a high volume of shots because, well, he should. But still, for Durant to be shooting it as well as he is? It's special stuff that we're getting to witness.
“I try to help other guys on this team understand how fortunate we are,” Fisher said, “to have a superstar like him that can do the things he's capable of doing but chooses to do it the way he does it.”
Despite all that, everyone seems to be drooling over Russell Westbrook. And Reggie Jackson. And Jeremy Lamb.
And rightfully so. Those guys are playing some stellar basketball. Westbrook has averaged nearly a triple-double over the past half a dozen games, including 20 points and 10 assists against the Bulls. Jackson is making people forget about James Harden; he had 18 points Thursday but was disgusted after the game about his six turnovers. Lamb keeps playing with more and more confidence.
The Thunder wouldn't be playing the best basketball in the league without those guys.
But everything they do is made so much easier by what Durant does.
“It's special in this league if you command double teams, but he commands triple teams,” Jackson said. “We're out there playing one-on-one, sometimes one-on-zero. It makes it drill work. The more aggressive he is, the easier everybody else's job becomes.”
That was evident when Durant checked into the game with about eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Thunder was fumbling around a bit. The bench was scoring well, but Bulls guard D.J. Augustine was getting hot and big man Joakim Noah was causing headaches.
On the first offensive possession with Durant back in the game, the Thunder got him an open look at a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and on the assist from Westbrook, he buried it.
Then he grabbed a defensive rebound.
Then he scored a jumper with the shot clock nearly at zero.
The he hit a jumper on another Westbrook assist.
Like that, the Bulls were fried.
And Durant did it while playing the power forward position, a spot that challenges him more on the defensive end. He's got to rebound, help on pick-and-rolls and do things he doesn't have to do as much when he's playing his more natural small forward position.
But Durant was able to do his job on both ends of the court.
“He's able to stay really locked in for longer stretches,” Thunder veteran Nick Collison said. “I think he has a better understanding of the entire game, the complete game.
“He's really good. I'm glad he's on our team.”
More honest words have never been spoken.
Argue all you want about who is the best player in the world, but right now, Durant is playing like he is. It simply can't be said enough — this guy is really good.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.