“It's not that I'm playing him more than all the other great players in this league's history,” Brooks said. “You look at all the great players and they get 40 minutes. That's what makes them good. You don't just give them minutes, they're earned. Kevin is one of the best players.”
Durant, at least once every year, jokes that he wants to play all 48 minutes every night. (He's actually reached or surpassed that mark 14 times in his career.) He's still young, he says. But as each passing season ends without the Thunder hoisting the championship Larry O'Brien trophy, the ultimate goal takes more and more precedence.
“I'm willing to do whatever coach needs me to do,” Durant insists. “It really doesn't matter what statistics say. I'm just going to go out there and if coach needs me to play 40 minutes I've got to play hard. If I only get 15 or 20 minutes one game, I got to play hard.”
But can Durant stay fresh for the playoff run?
Westbrook's injury has several tentacles. Now that Reggie Jackson is the starting point guard the Thunder's bench is extremely thin, void of a single proven scorer or shot-creator. That means Brooks is likely to rely on Durant carrying not just a patchwork starting unit but also a bench that is being revamped for the third straight season.
“He has to be able to integrate his game with the starters and the guys coming off the bench,” Brooks admits. “But he loves playing multiple positions and he loves handling the ball and he loves challenging himself to get better.”
Brooks is confident that prudently managing off days and monitoring Durant's practice time will lead to enough rest for Durant.
And Durant trusts his coaching staff more than any potentially telling data.
“Like I said, whatever is best for the team I'm willing to do,” Durant said. “I trust in all my teammates when I'm out on the floor. Whatever coach needs me to do I'm going to do it and go out there and play as best as I can.”