Scott Brooks is well aware of the potentially telling statistic floating around the Internet, the one that warns how no player in the last nine NBA seasons has won a championship after logging at least 3,000 regular-season minutes.
The Thunder coach just doesn't care about it.
Not when it comes to Kevin Durant.
“I like to keep his in that 38 minutes,” Brooks said, “right around 38 to 40 minutes.”
Assuming Durant plays at least 79 games, he would eclipse the 3,000-minute mark for the fourth time in five seasons. He registered 2,546 in the lockout-shortened 66-game 2011-12 season.
Ben Wallace, with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, is the last player to win a title in the same year that he played at least 3,000 minutes.
An eventual Finals MVP hasn't logged that many minutes since Tim Duncan did so with San Antonio in 2002-03.
So what does all this mean?
Depending on your interpretation of the data, the Thunder could have a problem on its hands this season.
With starting point guard Russell Westbrook sidelined for at least the first month of the regular season, the Thunder has little choice other than to rely heavily upon Durant. Even if Brooks wanted to manage Durant's minutes, he couldn't.
“It's a lot on me,” Durant said of managing the anticipated heavy workload. “I just got to recover right after games, after practice. I got to eat well. Just make sure my body is right.”
It's worth noting that before the 2004-05 season, 11 of 13 NBA champions had players log at least 3,000 minutes. So reaching that mark isn't some sort of death sentence. But the current nine-year trend does suggest, among other things, that players need rest (and in many cases strong supporting casts to get it).
Limiting minutes is one way to ensure players get ample rest throughout a grueling 82-game season. Taking games off and missing contests because of injury plays a part as well. But that speaks to the larger point. Regardless of the reason, players are receiving rest.
Yet even in a season in which the Thunder won 60 games and posted an eye-popping 9.2 average point differential, the Thunder still played Durant 38.5 minutes per game last season.
In fact, Durant has averaged more regular-season minutes in each of the last three seasons than almost every eventual Finals MVP of the last nine years. Kobe Bryant averaged 38.8 minutes in 2009-10. Dwyane Wade averaged 38.6 minutes in 2005-06.
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